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24 May 2011, 17:08 | Updated: 24 May 2011, 17:14
Eight members of an organised crime group have been sent to jail for a total of more than 24 years for their part in large scale identity fraud and money laundering resulting in the loss of many millions of pounds.
The seven men and one woman were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday, 24 May after pleading guilty to a series of charges following a major operation by Surrey Police’s Economic Crime Unit.
Over a period of 12 months detectives working with the Identity and Passport Service and the DVLA, uncovered a web of deceit by the group which used fraudulently obtained genuine passports and driving licence to open bank accounts in a number of false identities.
The large, pre-planned operation to successfully arrest the gang involved more than 250 Surrey and Sussex Police officers carrying out warrants at addresses in both counties and in London.
Some evidence was found at the home addresses but the bulk of records were discovered at three rented offices in Putney which contained essential account opening documents such as false licenses and passports, bank statements, chequebooks and cards together with notes about the profiles of all the account customers. Nearly £200,000 in cash was also seized.
The defendants were charged with numerous offences of conspiracy to defraud, using fraudulently obtained documents and money laundering and all admitted their part in the fraud and the laundering of the proceeds before today’s sentencing hearing.
· Anthony Bridger (50), a salesman from Imperial Wharf, London SW6, sentenced to four years and eight months
· David St John Tunnicliffe (38) a property consultant from Imperial Wharf, London SW6, sentenced to five years
· Richard Andrews (41), a builder from Brewhouse Lane, London SW15, sentenced to four years
· David Barclay (42), from Sussex Square, Brighton, sentenced to two years and six months
· Jonathan Ainsworth (44), a kitchen fitter, from Ince Road, Walton on Thames, sentenced to three years and one month
· Adrian Dubrey (48) a builder from Cow Lane, Lewes, Sussex, sentenced to three years and one month
· Paul Frederick Bridger (51), from John Street, Brighton, sentenced to 10 months suspended for a year and 60 hours community service
· Megan Smith (46), from Kingsley Close, Worthing, sentenced to 13 months.
The investigation originally involved the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) and the DVLA which had identified a group of individuals who were submitting multiple applications for passports and licences accompanied by photographs of the same people.
Surrey Police became involved following a complaint of fraud from a bank about the conduct of accounts opened in the name of one of the gang. After further information was received about the conduct of several bank accounts associated with a second individual, financial investigators took over enquiries and the full extent of the fraud and money laundering began to emerge.
They discovered many bank accounts that were in default and had accumulated significant debts with the account holders’ names matching those included in the original IPS and DVLA investigation.
Other identities were uncovered when enquiries were made into the account holders’ addresses and the investigation rapidly expanded. Within weeks the extent of the case was established at £10 million worth of fraud involving 1,000 bogus accounts and 100 false identities.
An investigation under the Proceeds of Crime Act has now been launched in an attempt to reclaim money or goods gained through illegal means.
Detective Inspector Joanna Hayes, head of Surrey Police’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “This was a major investigation which has taken an organised crime group off the streets and brought to a halt their large scale identity fraud and money laundering which resulted in the loss of many millions of pounds.
“It is testament to the determination and hard work of all the officers and investigators involved in this case that the group has been brought to justice and will now be pursued under the Proceeds of Crime Act in an effort to seize any assets the members may have.”
Sarah Rapson, Chief Executive of the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) commented: "The Identity and Passport Service welcomes today's sentences but remains resolute in its determination to tackle identity fraud across the UK. Our fraud teams regularly work alongside the police to secure prosecutions against individuals and gangs who use fraudulent documents to carry out crime.”