Tuesday, June 07, 2016

'Bank of Terror' fraudster faces jail after admitting plot to steal £1million from vulnerable pensioners to support ISIS fighters in Syria

  • Abdulaziz Ahmed, 23, admitted being part of gang who stole nearly £1m 
  • Was one of 11 men who targeted 18 pensioners, nicking their life savings
  • Simple scam saw them phone elderly homeowners pretending to be police
  • Would have them hand over their money after lying that funds were at risk 
Abdulaziz Ahmed, 23, today admitted he was part of a plot to con elderly people out of their life savings by posing as police officers and bank fraud officials
Abdulaziz Ahmed, 23, today admitted he was part of a plot to con elderly people out of their life savings by posing as police officers and bank fraud officials
A member of the 'Bank of Terror' gang which stole almost £1million from vulnerable pensioners to support Islamic State fighters in Syria is facing jail.

Abdulaziz Ahmed, 23, today admitted he was part of a plot to con elderly people out of their life savings by posing as police officers and bank fraud officials.

The group targeted at least 18 victims from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Bedfordshire, London and Kent, netting more than £900,000.

Ten of the gang have already been sentenced for their roles in the scam.

Ahmed was personally involved in collecting £35,000 from 75-year-old Patricia Burnham after she was told by a 'PC Jenkins' from Portsmouth Police Station that she should withdraw her savings in cash to prevent it being stolen.

He was also in regular contact with one of the ringleaders.

Mrs Burnham, whose husband Anthony has since died, said they lost their entire life savings.
She said in an impact statement read out at the Old Bailey:

 'They came to us at an opportune time. I was getting increasingly worried about access to money for a nursing home for my husband.

'I was extremely concerned we could lose all our savings and we just believed what PC Jenkins told us.

'My husband unfortunately passed away just two weeks after I handed the last package over to the courier. It is terribly sad that our last memories together were overshadowed by this horrible situation.' 

The other gang members included Mohamed Dahir, 23, who was supported by a letter from Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, and X-Factor reject Nathan Fagan-Gayle, 29, who appeared on the ninth series of the ITV show.

Fagan-Gayle, who has played with pop bands JLS, The Wanted and N-Dubz, withdrew £15,000 in cash and 'hit the shops hard', spending £5,000 on designer clothes and a flight to LA.

Other fraudsters included Sakaria Aden, 22, Yasser Abukar, 24, Makhzumi Abukar, 28, Ahmed Ahmed, 23, Fahim Islam, 21, Anrul Islam, 24, and 30-year-old Warsame Sheik.

The 18 victims lost a total of £576,000 between May 2014 and summer 2015, while a further £69,000 worth of transactions were halted by police.

But the fraudsters grabbed another £328,000 from victims who have never been identified.
Key players Dahir, Aden and Yasser Abukar convinced victims as old as 96 to transfer money out of their accounts, fearing they were about to lose the lot.

Jeremy Corbyn wrote a letter asking for Mohamed Dahir (pictured) be released on bail after he was first charged with his involvement in the crime
The gang of conmen included former X Factor contestant Nathan Fagan-Gayle (left) and Mohamed Dahir (right)

Yasser Abukar recruited another man, who has never been identified, through his contacts at Finsbury Park Mosque.

The fraudsters even brought some of their victims' grandchildren into the scam, telling them their loved ones had been arrested and withdrawing their money was the only way of helping them.

Another 'clever, but simple' trick would be to suggest the victims dial 999 or phone their bank to confirm the fraudsters' story.

But when the victims, in their 70s, 80s and 90s, hung up their phones and re-dialled the crooks would remain on the line.

Once in the hands of the criminals, the funds would be quickly withdrawn in what they believed to be anonymous cash.

A network of couriers were then used to ferry the cash around the country to the various gang members and the associates.

Yasser Abukar has been jailed for six years for his role
Anrul Islam posed as a police officer to con elderly out of their savings
Yasser Abukar (left) and Anrul Islam (right) were in a group posing as police officers to persuade victims to transfer cash into accounts controlled by their associates
Makhzumi Abuka
Fahim Islam
Makhzumi Abuka (left) and Fahim Islam (right) were part of the 11-strong gang who would quickly withdraw what they believed to be anonymous cash

Makhzumi Abukar admitted his part in the scam after being caught red-handed with cash taken from one of the victims.

One victim, William Gooding, who is in his 70s, was conned out of £9,000 after receiving a phone call from a 'PC Hopkins' based in Hammersmith, west London.

He was told his grandson was in custody and was told to transfer another £9,000 into a different account but staff at his local branch in Barnstaple, Devon, became suspicious.

Ruth Goodwill, 84, fell victim to the scam after being told she needed to move her life savings 'for safekeeping'.

Elizabeth Curtis, who lost £130,000, described realising she had been defrauded as 'a complete body blow'.

In a victim impact statement, she said: 'Without all the support of my family and friends I don't know whether I could have got through the last year.

Julia Hill and her husband Kenneth lost £11,000 - every penny of their life savings - to the fraudsters.

Michael Garett, who was conned out of £113,000, said: 'We were told that a huge operation was underway in relation to our case which made us feel very afraid in our own home.

'I always made sure the door was locked and was constantly looking out of the window.

'As soon as I realised my life savings were gone forever my wife Jane had a panic attack.

'I am absolutely devastated and I will never get over this incident, even if all of the money is paid back.'

The fraudsters even robbed one lady, 86-year-old Barbara Davidson, of her last chance to visit her family in South Africa after stealing £14,000.

She said: 'I do feel this is the last opportunity for me to travel as my mobility is deteriorating and I fear I will never be able to see my family again.'

Kenneth Whitaker - a decorated former serviceman with the Army Air Corps - lost £113,000.
Detectives believe the men ran a 'bank of terror', sending some of the money to Syria to support Islamic State.

Commander Richard Walton, head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command (SO15), said: 'This callous group of criminals stole vast sums of money from extremely vulnerable and elderly people from across the country.'

He added: 'We uncovered this fraud after a separate terrorist investigation found suspicious payments into a bank account of an individual who is now believed to have travelled to Syria.'

Fagan-Gayle, of Mitcham, Surrey, was convicted of converting criminal property and jailed for 20 months.

Fahim Islam, of Stepney, was jailed for six years and three months, Ahmed, of Holloway, was handed four years and two month, while Makzhumi Abukar, of Holloway, north London, got seven years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit fraud.

Anrul Islam, of Hedgemans Road, Dagenham admitted money laundering and was jailed for 16 months.

Aden, of Stoke Newington, was jailed for jailed for six-and-a-half years; Yasser Abukar, of Holloway, was jailed for six years and Dahir, of Finsbury Park, was jailed for 21 months after they were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Mohammed Youssfi, 38, of West Brompton, was given 20 months in prison for money laundering and fraud after he pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

Mohammed Abokar, 28, of Islington, was previously sentenced to 18 months for money laundering.

Another man, Warsame Shiek, of Harrow, admitted money laundering and is awaiting sentence.

Abdulaziz Ahmed, of Camden, northwest London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud between 1 May 2014 and 7 May 2015.

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