A couple from Birmingham have been convicted of fraud after conning more than 50 online shoppers out of thousands of pounds by setting up bogus web companies.
Saqib Bashir and his wife, Rimla Chaudurey, from William Cook Road in Washwood Heath, offered iPhones, Pandora bracelets, hair straighteners and designer watches for sale on Instagram.
The adverts persuaded 55 buyers to part with a combined total of £14,824 –before it transpired that the online firms existed only in the heads of the crooked couple.
None of the victims received the goods they ordered and never heard from 27-year-old Bashir or his 24-year-old partner again.
Several victims contacted Action Fraud on realising they’d been victims of a con and the case was referred to West Midlands Police’s Economic Crime Unit in November 2013 when the extent of the scam became apparent.
Bashir and Chaudurey were arrested in January 2014 from their home address and, following extensive enquiries with complainants, plus phone, online and bank account analysis, they were charged with fraud by false representation on 4th March this year.
Bashir initially denied the offence, claiming he’d never heard of Cosmetic Bargains – the business name used to trick many victims – didn’t use Instagram, and was not linked to the bank accounts or mobile phone numbers used to facilitate the con.
He maintained the pair were victims of identity theft.
However when detectives provided more evidence – including proof that a web page for Cosmetic Bargains was created on their home computer – they eventually admitted fraud by false representation.
At Birmingham Crown Court on Friday 2nd October, both were handed eight-month jail sentences suspended for 12 months.
Investigating Officer Matt Leach, from the force’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “They used 10 different bank accounts – one of which was linked to 23 frauds – and six Instagram accounts offering items for sale.
“Customers parted with sums ranging from £52 to £1,000 between September 2013 and April 2014…many of these were birthday and Christmas presents so they are responsible for creating a lot of upset and worry amongst the people they deceived.
“They tried claiming they too were victims and that fraudsters had used their identities without their knowledge – but we gathered very strong evidence and ultimately they had to admit they were also lying to police.”
The couple used bogus online firms with names Cosmetic Bargains, Alinas Accessories, Designer Discounts, Crystal Discounts, Designer Boutique, Designer Couture, and Beauty Boutiqu3.