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A man has been convicted of fraud offences after claiming more than £30,000 in accommodation and financial assistance intended for the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Abolaji Onafuye, 54 of Gorleston Street, W14 was found guilty on Tuesday, 11 December of two counts of fraud by false representation at Isleworth Crown Court.
During the seven-day trial, the court heard that Onafuye claimed he lived at a flat on the eleventh floor and was the brother of one of the victims who died in the fire.
He then claimed accommodation and financial assistance from the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and from the charity Rugby Portobello Trust, worth around £33,0000 before the fraud was discovered.
When arrested and interviewed by officers on Thursday, 7 June, Onafuye maintained he had been living on the 11th Floor of Grenfell Tower. However during the trial he stated that during his interview he only claimed to have been living in Grenfell as he was suffering from temporary insanity caused by not eating during Ramadan.
He later alleged that he had been volunteering after the disaster and was rehoused as a result of suffering trauma during that time.
Onafuye also stated he had never claimed to live in Grenfell Tower and disputed the evidence given by staff from various organisations.
He will be sentenced on Tuesday, 18 December.
Detective Constable Carlos Araujo, who led the investigation, said: “Onafuye shamelessly took advantage of the support being offered to those who were directly affected by the Grenfell tragedy and he has continuously failed to own up to his deplorable actions.
“We will continue to investigate and prosecute anyone who is exploiting what happened at Grenfell and our thoughts remain with the real victims of this tragedy.”
A police constable has been handed a suspended prison sentence for fraud.
PC Reshat Kemal, aged 35, attached to Hammersmith and Fulham borough, pleaded guilty to two counts fraud by false representation on Monday, 7 August at Southwark Crown Court.
On Tuesday, 7 November he was sentenced to a total of 30 months' imprisonment suspended for 18 months, 200 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £1,800 costs. The court heard he had raised £8,000 in compensation for his victims.
PC Kemal offered his victims the opportunity to invest money with him, promising sizeable returns. However, in one case the money was never returned and the second victim received less than half of what she had given to him.
The investigation revealed that the money was never invested but was instead used by PC Kemal as personal funds.
The Met's Directorate of Professional Standards began an investigation following a public complaint and PC Kemal was subsequently arrested on 19 May 2015.
He was charged on 22 October 2016 with two counts of fraud after consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service.
PC Kemal has been suspended throughout the investigation. Now criminal matters are complete he will be subject to misconduct proceedings.
A new food fraud report shows that almost two thirds of people in the Midlands (64%) regularly take measures to ensure their food is legitimate, and 17% avoid certain foods altogether that they believe could be susceptible to fraud.
As Britain prepares to leave the European Union, new research reveals that only 11% of people in the Midlands have confidence in the European food chain and just 9% in the global chain, fewer than one in every ten people.
Takeaways are the least trusted type of food outlet in the Midlands (37%) followed by online (20%) and convenience stores (15%). The least trusted product types are processed foods (36%), red meat (16%) supplements and animal feed (15%).
Almost three quarters (70%) believe there to be an issue with food fraud in the UK, with a quarter also believing that they have personally experienced it (25%). Hearing about high profile cases of fraudulent food in the media, such as the horse meat scandal in 2013, is the most common cause of reduced confidence in nearly half of consumers (44%).
The NFU Mutual Food Fraud Report 2017, published on 7th September, also reveals that one third of consumers across the region (34%) are less trusting of products and retailers than they were five years ago, compared with only 10% whose trust has increased. A further 34% believe that food crime is likely to increase in the future.
Commenting on the report, Frank Woods, Retail Sector Specialist at NFU Mutual, said: “There has never been a more important time for tackling food fraud and getting regulation right as we plan to leave the European Union, but Government proposals for where we will get our food from are already under tough scrutiny from industry and consumers alike with concerns over skilled workers and quality.
“Producers are under immense pressure to offset price rises caused by the weakened value of sterling and higher import costs, squeezing already tight budgets and resources and potentially cornering them into using cheaper global suppliers that may be more vulnerable to fraud.”
The UK food and drink industry could be losing up to £12bn annually to fraud, entering the food chain through means including falsified or inaccurate documentation, and redirection of waste products back into the supply chain or re-dating of stock.
Frank continued: “Our research exposes the damaging effect that various influencers have had on consumer confidence over time. Much of the industry is addressing this by changing its supply strategy and supporting British producers - likely to be popular with a majority of consumers who want to support local businesses on home soil. How British producers and retailers will be supported and enabled to deliver the quantity of food required and improve consumer confidence remains to be seen.
“Our Food Fraud Report provides businesses with the research findings alongside advice from NFU Mutual experts and partners to help them combat fraud and appeal to customers through transparency and trust.”
The NFU Mutual Food Fraud report, which is designed to understand challenges facing businesses working across the ‘field to fork’ supply chain, explores attitudes and influencers of trust, perceived blame, impact upon behaviour and awareness of food crime. The report includes viewpoints and advice from major industry bodies including the British Retail Consortium, Food and Drink Federation, British Hospitality Association and National Farmers Retail & Markets Association.
Three fraudsters have been sentenced for conspiracy to defraud after stealing more than £1.1 million of public money from the Home Office in an EU immigration funding fraud.
Mohammed Muj Meah Chaudhari, aged 38 of Bowyer Road, Birmingham was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and banned from being a director of a company for ten years. His sister Suraiya Alam, aged 44 of Bowyer Road, Birmingham was sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years and ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work.
Their colleague Victoria Sherrey, aged 66 of Fairfield Lane, Kidderminster was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years and ordered to do 100 hours unpaid work. Sherrey and Alam were also disqualified from being a director of a company for five years.
The trio committed their fraud by claiming that their firms, Inspire Futures Ltd and Accent on Training Ltd were helping with the social, cultural and economic integration of hundreds of foreign nationals into the UK. The three were able to fraudulently claim grants of £546,132 for Inspire Futures Ltd and £584,102 for Accent on Training Ltd EU, most of which was spent on a luxury Bentley car, lavish holidays to Dubai and numerous pieces of gold jewellery.
On 6 April 2011, both Chaudhari, representing Inspire Futures, and Sherrey, representing Accent on Training, applied for two EU grants which were being offered from the Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows European Integration Fund, set up in 2007. Following approval of the grants on 1 June 2011, both Accent on Training and Inspire Futures each received their first grant payments of £86,380 and £69,666 in November 2011.
Over the next three years, Chaudhari, Alam and Sherrey were instrumental in applying for several grants from the same fund. However, information received by the Home Office officials managing the fund in December 2014 showed that as part of its bi-annual returns, Inspire Futures had submitted false invoices and payroll claims for staff who no longer worked for the company. During an audit by the Home Office Internal Audit Unit in January 2015, various invoices and payslips were uncovered which contained typographical errors.
The evidence found during the audit suggested to Home Office investigators that false documents had been created to justify the funds spent by Inspire Futures and Accent on Training. The Home Office consequently contacted the City of London Police’s Fraud Squad in February 2015, at which point an investigation was begun.
Chaudhari was arrested on 29 April 2015 following a search warrant carried out by detectives at the Inspire Futures headquarters in Birmingham and at Chaudhari’s home address. Among the items seized were a substantial amount of gold jewellery and £5,000 in cash from a safe and a large amount of paperwork including false bank statements and fake invoices. Chaudhari, Alam and Sherrey were all charged on 21 January 2016 with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
The European Integration Fund is to support and encourage economic, social, cultural and political integration of foreign nationals into British society, specifically in this case within Birmingham, the Black Country and East London.
The Home Office managed the Solidarity and Management of Migration Flows funding on behalf of the EU. This grant is no longer awarded in the UK.
Detective Sergeant Simon Russen of the City of London Police’s Fraud Team said: “These fraudsters have stolen significant amounts of public money which should have been used to support vulnerable people. Motivated purely by greed, they designed a complex scam to fund a luxury lifestyle built on deceit.
“The co-operation of the Home Office with our investigation has helped ensure these criminals have been brought to justice.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are committed to preventing the misuse of public funding and have strengthened our procedures to make it harder for those seeking to commit fraud of public funds.”
Confiscation hearings will now take place against the three.
A woman has been convicted of being part of a romance fraud which tricked seven men into handing over more than £100,000.
Grace Akintaro, 24 (24.04.93) of Pettacre Close, SE28 pleaded guilty to seven counts of fraud by false representation at Woolwich Crown Court on Monday, 12 June.
At the same hearing, Victoria Nwogu, 22 (26.02.95) of Piedmont Road, SE18 pleaded guilty to a charge of acquiring criminal property (money laundering).
The women will both be sentenced at the same court on Tuesday, 20 June.
Officers from the Met's Fraud and Linked Crime Online (FALCON) began an investigation in December 2014 following a referral from Action Fraud.
Four men, living in different areas of the UK, had contacted Action Fraud to report the fact they were victims of a romance fraud scam.
A further three victims were later identified as a result of the Met's investigation.
The men had all been using the Match dating website and believed they had struck up a relationship with a woman called Amanda Jenson.
After being asked if they could cover her travel costs to meet up, the men agreed to pay money directly into her bank account.
Various different excuses were then given to each man to explain why Amanda could not see them on the set date.
However, she would ask for more money and promise to meet up another time. None of the men ended up meeting Amanda, despite transferring thousands of pounds to her bank account.
Akintaro admitted she spoke to at least two of the victims on the phone pretending to be Amanda Jenson.
As well as travel costs, the men were also asked for other short term loans to pay for rent or other costs and would be given different bank account details they were told belonged to her mother or landlord.
Fake documents were used to provide evidence that Amanda Jenson was due to receive an inheritance from a relative and would then be able to pay the money back.
Met detectives carried out analysis of the bank statements related to the account numbers the
men had been asked to pay money in to and uncovered links to Akintaro and Nwogu.
One of the victims identified by Met officers had been tricked into handing over a total of more than £46,000.
Another victim of the fraud sent money from his wife's death in service insurance policy from her employer.
Others have lost proportions of their pension and another took out an equity release on his house.
In one case, a victim was told to go to a London airport to meet Amanda Jenson.
Whilst he was standing outside the arrivals lounge, he was sent pictures of himself from the phone number he had used to communicate with her.
The man was told Amanda Jenson could see him waiting but had been held up by customs officials and needed more money before she could be released. He refused to pay and went home.
All the men ceased contact with Amanda after it became apparent they would never meet her and were unlikely ever to receive their money back.
Most of the bank accounts involved in the fraud had an address of Pettacre Close, Woolwich, where Akintaro lived.
In total, Akintaro received £104,962.88 into accounts she directly controlled.
Analysis of Akintaro's mobile phone revealed a photo of Amanda Jenson used in the fraudulent profiles sent to the victims.
A car, which is owned and used by Grace Akintaro, was directly bought with funds from one of the victims.
In total, Nwogu received £3,490 into accounts she directly controlled.
The money was sent to Akintaro and Nwogu during a period between August 2014 and December 2015.
The police investigation revealed no evidence of Amanda Jenson's existence, other than as a fake dating profile. The picture used on Match is believed to be of a woman who is entirely unaware of the fraud.
Akintaro was charged on 26 October 2016. Nwogu was charged the following day.
Detective Constable Mark Cresswell, of the Met's Fraud and Linked Crime Online (FALCON) unit, said:
"We managed to identify seven victims of this fraud but I suspect there are many more who have not contacted police. Romance fraud is often an under-reported crime as victims can be left feeling embarrassed about the sum of money they have handed over to someone they have never met. One of the victims we identified in this case said he had not reported it to police because he thought he felt he had been a 'foolish old man'.
"I would like to appeal to anyone who believes they have been a victim of this crime to contact their local police force or Action Fraud. We will investigate these allegations and, as these prosecutions show, we will ensure that the perpetrators are unable to commit similar offences against anyone else.
"The majority of accounts on dating websites are genuine people looking for romance, but fraudsters also use them by setting up fake profiles and building up what feels like a loving relationship with people they contact. When using online dating websites you should never send money or give away your bank details to someone you have not met, no matter how plausible their story may seem."
A Match spokesperson said:
"We are appalled by these crimes and welcome the convictions in this case. Sadly, there is a tiny minority of people who set out to harm others and while this is not confined to dating sites or even the internet, those who do should be brought to justice.
"Our member's safety is our highest priority and we regularly advise our community to be vigilant, to report any suspicious activity and follow the safety recommendations available online and through the app. We fully support the Metropolitan Police Service's investigation and the industry-wide initiatives that organisations like the Online Dating Association are taking on the issue."
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud can contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.
FRAUD: Accountant Salim Sakaria’s gang created fake invoices and attempted to swipe £4.2 million in total
A convicted fraudster from Lancashire, who was part of a VAT repayment fraud involving fake construction companies, must repay more than £2.2 million.
Salim Sakaria, 46, of Preston, was one of the key players in an 11-strong crime gang that attempted to steal £4.2 million between 2009 and 2011. But the fraud unravelled after a long and complex criminal investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).
The gang, led by Sakaria, set up 19 fake construction companies, used ‘puppet’ directors, fake invoices and bogus building contracts for housing developments as a smokescreen to hide their criminal activity.
People were paid up to £35,000 to act as directors and allow the gang to use their names and addresses for the bogus companies to claim illegal VAT refunds. Twenty companies were repaid £2,932,084 for fake VAT claims before HMRC froze repayments.
Voice recognition technology showed Sakaria contacted HMRC by phone about the fraudulent VAT repayments.
On 11 April 2017, Salim Sakaria was ordered to repay £2,276,149 within three months or serve a further compulsory seven and a half years in jail as a default sentence.
Sakaria, who worked at Forte Accountants in Preston, lied about being an accountant. HMRC investigators found that as well as owning six properties in the Preston area valued at £408,464, a designer watch and a Mercedes Benz car, he had almost £2 million in cash generated by the fraud some of which had been transferred to Dubai.
HMRC investigators arranged a restraint of Sakaria’s assets while the confiscation proceedings progressed through the courts. Any sale of the restrained assets will now be used to fund the confiscation payment.
Detectives have released CCTV footage of a man they would like to speak to after a woman was conned out of thousands of pounds of her life savings.
At about 15:00hrs on Thursday, 9 February, the 51-year-old victim received a call on her landline at her home in Waltham Forest from someone claiming to be a Metropolitan Police Service detective called James Portman.
He stated that she had been the victim of fraud and her identification had been stolen.
To verify his details, ‘DC Portman’ said he was going to hang up the phone and asked the victim to call 999 and quote a crime reference number. The victim was told that the operator would then transfer the call to DC Portman.
In reality, the conman did not hang up the phone and the victim did not speak to a genuine 999 operator.
The victim was then given a set of instructions by DC Portman and was told to visit a bank on Leytonstone High Road to withdraw cash. She was then told to go to a bureau du change in Walthamstow to withdraw Euros and American dollars.
When she returned home at about 18:00hrs, she received another phone call from DC Portman who explained that a courier would be attending her home address to collect the money she had withdrawn. The conman also told the victim he would require her bank cards for evidence.
The victim handed over the money and her bank cards to the courier who said he was delivering the items to Hammersmith police station.
Some 20 minutes later the victim received a phone call from DC Portman who said the items had been delivered.
On Friday, 10 February, the victim received further instructions telling her to go to a jewellery shop on New Bond Street to buy a high-end watch. She was then told to deliver the watch to a courier in Bond Street.
The woman met the same courier as before and handed over the watch.
On Monday, 13 February, the victim received a call from DC Portman telling her that she must withdraw everything or she could lose her life savings. She was first instructed to go to a bank in Wanstead to transfer her savings into her flex account. She was then told to go to a jewellery shop on Old Bond Street to buy another high-end watch.
She was instructed to go to Dover Street in Piccadilly to hand the watch over to a courier, who was a man the victim had not seen before. The victim was on the phone to DC Portman at the time when her mobile died.
The victim asked a member of public if she could borrow their phone and she dialled 101 and quoted DC Portman’s name and the crime reference number she was given. The operator told the victim the crime reference number was incorrect and that there was no DC James Portman in the system.
The victim became suspicious and on Tuesday, 14 February she reported the incident to the police.
Detective Constable James Egley, the investigating officer from the Met’s Operation Falcon, said: "These conmen went to extreme lengths to gain the victim’s trust to deliberately deceive her out of her hard-earned life-savings.
"We would appeal for anyone who recognises the man in the CCTV to contact us or Crimestoppers.
"People should be aware that the police would never send a courier service to collect items and would never ask for your PIN, bank cards, to withdraw money or to buy expensive items.
"Any suspicions should be reported to the police.
"We would urge people to be vigilant at all times so they can avoid falling victim to a similar scam."
Anyone who recognises the man or has any information should call Operation Falcon on 020 7230 8203 or Tweet @MetCC
Information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or online at www.crimestoppers-uk.org
For advice on how to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud visit www.met.police.uk
Four men, who pretended to be police officers as they conned over £100,000 out of elderly and vulnerable victims in a nationwide fraud, have this month been sentenced to a total of 15 years in prison at Leeds Crown Court.
The quartet, sentenced on Friday 18th November, were all from London, yet were charged in Leeds after a 15-month investigation by the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit.
Throughout their spate of frauds, over 60 offences were reported across 13 different areas of England with similar complaints also received from people in West Yorkshire.
The men jailed last week were Malik Amer, 24, for three years, seven months; Shah Ahmed, 22, for four years, seven months; Rahim Ali, 22, for three years, six months; and Ruhel Miah, 19, for four years, 11 months.
All men admitted conspiracy to commit fraud.
A further man from London admitted one offence of fraud and will be sentenced at a later date.
The investigation by the Leeds-based team started after a number of fraud cases involving people pretending to be police officers were reported to police in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
The group involved would phone unsuspecting victims with the caller pretending to be a police officer claiming to be investigating fraudulent transactions or activities within the victim's bank account.
That bogus police officer would then try and convince his victim that he needed their money to be able to investigate the fraud.
From this point the victim was informed that they needed to go to the bank and withdraw a large amount of money (usually between £5,000 and £20,000).
The bogus officer would then send someone around who would also pretend to be a police officer or someone working for the police to the victim's house to collect the money.
An alternative method the group used to collect their ill-gotten gains was to get the victim to directly transfer the cash (again somewhere between £5,000 to £20,000) to another 'safe' bank account.
As officers began to investigate the cases it was quickly established that the offenders were committing similar offences across the country.
Many of the recorded crimes did not succeed - but they still managed to con ten victims out of a total of £118,000. The largest single amount defrauded was £37,000.
Speaking after the men were sentenced, Detective Constable John Davies, of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: “These four individuals are callous - they preyed upon often vulnerable and/or elderly people and in many cases tricked them out of their life savings.
“To compound their behaviour they pretended to be police officers - the very people in society who look to protect people from such wrong doing.
“We know, having spoken to the victims and their families that the experience was a terrible ordeal for them and many are still to fully recover from the trauma. Thankfully many of their attempted scams failed and people saw through their mask of respectability.”
VIGILANCE: Hajj Fraud figures dropped by 33 per cent from 2014 to 2015 yet law enforcement say these figures may be much lower than in reallity
Authorities team up to tackle fraudulent travel companies
Police forces across the UK have this month launched a new campaign, aimed at raising awareness of Hajj fraud and encouraged the reporting of such crimes
The fourth national campaign – delivered with the support of the British Council of Hajjis, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) – is being run as part of the ongoing efforts to protect Muslims who will be booking trips to Mecca over the coming months to perform Hajj in the Autumn.
Between 1st April 2015 and 31st March 2016 there were 49 counts of Hajj fraud – with an average loss of £2,651 – reported to Action Fraud, marking a 33 per cent drop on the previous year’s reporting figures.
Hotspots for recorded offending were London, Birmingham, Manchester and Blackburn.
However, law enforcement and figures within the Muslim community remain convinced these numbers represent just the tip of the iceberg, with many victims feeling too embarrassed, ashamed or frightened to report what has happened to them.
To try and break down remaining barriers, 16 police forces will be engaging with their local Muslim communities through meetings and via their own social and digital media channels.
City of London Police Commander, Chris Greany, who is the Police National Coordinator for Economic Crime, said: “Hajj fraud continues to destroy the dreams people have of making a once in a lifetime pilgrimage to Mecca.
“Many victims will have saved for years to be able to afford to travel to Saudi Arabia and as a result will be absolutely devastated when they find out that they have in fact been conned by fraudsters.
“The key to staying safe and keeping the criminals at bay is to conduct your own research into the travel company you are thinking of using.
“Make sure it is really a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected and is not just using false logos. You should also get everything in writing and, when you have made a decision, pay for your trip by credit card.”
Earlier this month, the City of London Police, the CAA and Birmingham Trading Standards visited a string of travel agents in the Birmingham area suspected of selling unlicensed package tours to Mecca.
Owners of the travel agents were warned about advertising themselves as being ATOL licensed when background checks revealed this may not be the case.
UNDELIVERED: The former spokesman for an extremist group sold iPads online but customers didn’t receive them
Former terrorist sympathiser arrested for £1m eBay fraud
A man has been arrested on suspicion of carrying out a £1m-plus fraud on eBay to fund terrorism.
Hassan Butt, 35, from Manchester, is a former spokesman for the extremist group, al-Muhajiroun, and claimed to be an al-Qaida insider – something he later denied following attacks on the capital.
He claims to have sent scores of Brits to terrorist training camps, including Mohammad Sidique Khan, the ringleader of the 7th July 2005 tube bombings, and in the past has said he would be proud to be a suicide bomber.
ARRESTED: Hassan Butt angered hundreds of eBay users after failing to deliver orders of electronic goods purchased on the popular website
He renounced Islamic extremism after the 7/7 bombings, but admitted in court four years later he was a ‘professional liar’ who told ‘the media [what they] wanted to hear’.
After the attacks in London, Butt said he had seen the error of his ways and publicly spoke out against extremism.
However, in September last year Butt was accused of conning hundreds of customers by failing to deliver orders for iPhones, iPads and games consoles on the online auction site, eBay.
Another man, believed to be Butt’s business partner, was also arrested on the same day in nearby Bury, Lancashire.
Both men were bailed last week.
A Metropolitan police spokesman said: “Two men arrested on Wednesday 23rd September 2015 by officers from the Metropolitan police’s counter terrorism command (SO15), supported by colleagues from Greater Manchester police, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud appeared on police bail on 18th November and were further arrested on fraud offences.”
An eBay spokesman said: “No customer was left out of pocket. We refunded every customer in full at the time of the event. We have dedicated in-house detection teams and alert systems in place to identify suspicious behaviour very quickly.
“Our teams share information with law enforcement agencies around the world to keep our marketplace safe for customers.”
WARNING: Asif Niaz holds a picture of himself and his wife, Sonia, who he has not seen since March 2015
Sham marriage victim wants others to learn from his example
A Leeds man, who says he fell victim to an immigration marriage fraud whilst travelling in Pakistan two years ago, is warning others to be vigilant when searching for their future wife.
54-year-old Asif Niaz was falsely accused of rape, had money stolen from him, and claims he was forced to payout over £17,000 after his wedding in September 2013, as his life was turned upside down.
Having only recently started to ‘get over the ordeal’, he is now determined to prevent others from making the same mistakes he has.
“Learn from my mistakes,” he said. “My family told me about her but I did not listen. I didn’t want to believe what they were telling me but this woman only married me so she could get access to, and stay in, the UK.
“I look back on the experience now and think I am lucky in a way that the only thing I lost was some jewellery and money. It could have been much worse. It was a marriage of convenience for her.
“Now that she is gone, I just want to get my life back together.”
Asif says he believes he was the victim of immigration marriage fraud after meeting his wife-to-be, Sonia Niaz, in the Pir Mahal region of the Punjab, Pakistan, back in March 2013.
From their first meeting on the street, said he was asked to marry her yet declined as he ‘did not know her’ and rather took her out around Pakistan.
After a couple of months, Asif believed Sonia could be his wife and so eventually agreed to marry her as is more accustomed in his culture.
“The whole nikah was a bit strange,” he said. “There were no family and friends just us at Sonia’s home, but if that is what she wanted, that is what we were going to do.”
He added: “She repeatedly told me she had never been married before despite my cousin and friends saying she had two previous marriages.
“It turns out she had been married twice yet neither one had lasted.
“One husband took her to Dubai and she was deported back within months and the other had also divorced her within three months.”
Asif, who was living in Ireland at the time, moved back to his adopted nation in November 2013 with Sonia, where they lived at Asif’s house.
However, the residence did not last long as Sonia fled just three months later.
“It was the week commencing Valentine’s Day when she ran off back to Pakistan,” he said. “I thought it was strange, she took all her jewellery I had bought her and a sum of cash. I had spent thousands of pounds on her and she just disappeared.
“When I finally contacted her she said she was happier over there but within three days she called back and told me to come and get her.
“I gave her the benefit of the doubt. She had come from a poor family and to move into a large home in Ireland, away from her family must have been hard I thought.
“My family told me then to just let her go but I travelled over to Pakistan in April to begin working on getting her papers for Ireland again.
“She never gave me a reason as to why she ran away but I always thought it was because she was intimidated by the way of life away from Pakistan.”
In September 2014, the couple finally returned to their home in Ireland and went to the immigration centre to get Sonia’s passport stamped for her right to stay in the country.
She was granted a five year VISA and Asif says she almost immediately had her eyes set on the next location.
“Within a week of getting the passport stamped she wanted go to England,” he said. “I have family in Birmingham so was happy to go see them and my son and his wife joined us on the trip from Ireland.
“It was nothing but trouble from there. She repeatedly used foul and abusive language when speaking to my family and my daughter told me Sonia had said she is leaving me.
“I didn’t believe her. We decided to move out and went to Bradford in January where everything was fine and then we moved once again to Armley in March 2015.
“This is where the real trouble started.”
On 3rd March Asif says Sonia ripped up all her travel documents during an argument at the family home as she told him she had used him for entry to the UK.
Asif says he was confused with the situation as he watched his wife tear up the papers, including pages out of her passport, which had cost in excess of £17,000 over the past 18 months.
“I told her to calm down and left the house to clear my head,” he said. “About half an hour later I returned and she was smiling.
“She had called the police and told them I had kept her against her will in the house, tied her up and raped her. She accused me of ripping up all these documents. I had spent so much on them just for her.
“The police came and smashed down the doors. They took me into the police station for questioning and I spent the night there.”
Asif has not seen his wife since that date and was cleared of all charges in July.
Today he says he believes she is living illegally in Bradford, and has not heard from the immigration centre where Sonia is supposed to check in.
“She is a selfish, inconsiderate and heartless person who tricks people into believing she is somebody else,” he said.
“From start to end this was a well organised crime and deception for the sake of coming to the UK and being able to obtain permanent residency and a British passport. I have now had her five year VISA revoked because initially that was for the Republic of Ireland.
“Hopefully people will read my story and not make the same mistakes I have. She tried to ruin my life.”
FINED: Mr Rafiq, of Stazione Pizza and Sanam Balti, was fined for selling beef instead of lamb in one of his takeaway’s dishes (pic: Google Maps)
The director of a popular Leeds takeaway has been fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of over £2,000 after beef was found to be used as a substitute in the lamb bhuna.
Mohammed Rafiq, of Mar Takeaway Ltd – trading as Stazione Pizza and Sanam Balti, in Cross Gates, appeared before Leeds Magistrates Court on Thursday 24th September, where he pleaded guilty to offences under the Food Safety Act 1990.
On 10th September 2014, as part of routine sampling work, an Officer from West Yorkshire Trading Standards visited Stazione Pizza and Sanam Balti, where an order for a Lamb Bhuna, advertised on the takeaway’s menu, was placed.
The meal was collected by the Officer and an inspection of the premises was undertaken.
The Lamb Bhuna was then submitted to, and was subsequently analysed by, the Public Analyst, whose analysis determined that the meat used in the bhuna was actually beef.
Upon being interviewed by West Yorkshire Trading Standards, Rafiq claimed he didn’t know the restaurant was supplying beef having thought he had ordered lamb from his supplier.
Despite providing receipts to Officers, the documents only showed ‘meat’ had been purchased and did not identify the species.
David Lodge, Head of Trading Standards said Rafiq’s punishment highlighted the tough stance the law takes on all traders.
He said: “Consumers rightly expect to get what they pay for. This takeaway made substitutions seemingly to save money, without informing the customer.
“Trading Standards will continue to take action against takeaways or restaurants flouting the law.”
Cross Gates and Whinmoor Councillor Pauleen Grahame, Deputy Chair of the West Yorkshire Joint Services Committee, which oversees the work of the Trading Standards, added: “Takeaways must take steps to ensure all menu descriptions accurately reflect the dishes they serve.
“The mis-description of food, whether verbally or in writing, is an offence and samples are taken to identify those businesses failing to comply with the law.”
Last year the Food Standards Agency (FSA) introduced new tests on lamb takeaway meals after the consumer watchdog found evidence of cheaper substitutes such as beef and chicken being used.
An FSA review of local authority sampling data from July to December 2013 found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaway meals contained meat other than lamb, with other meat species identified including chicken and turkey.
If anyone suspects that their restaurant or takeaway meal is incorrectly described contact Trading Standards, via the Citizens Advice Bureau on 03454 040506 to report the matter.
GUILTY: Jay Carmen was sentenced to two years in prison for selling fake tickets online
A Birmingham man who conned thousands of pounds out of concert goers over 12 months in order to fund his cocaine habit was finally jailed last week.
Jay Carmen was handed the sentence after admitting numerous fraud offences where he advertised fictitious tickets on social media and auction websites, netting him £9,500 in total to pay for his £200-a-day addiction.
Music fans across the UK were left out of pocket after paying up to £500 for Beyoncé tickets and £600 for admissions to the Isle of Wight’s Bestival festival but the tickets did not exist and never arrived.
Carmen, aged 27, also duped a number of horse lovers by selling expensive saddles for £465 on equestrian websites.
The offences all took place between February 2013 and March 2014. Carmen was caught when detectives traced the bank account he was using to transfer the funds and was arrested by officers in May 2014.
Carmen, of Pembroke Drive, Northfield, admitted 24 of the offences but denied six of them and the case went to trial at Birmingham Crown Court. But at the last minute, the fraudster changed his mind pleading guilty to all 30 crimes and was sentenced to two years in jail on Friday 20th March.
PC Richard Potts, from the force’s Economic Crime Unit, said: “Carmen – who was a legitimate businessman with a silver service and events management training company - used a series of false names as he did not want his perceived good name to be associated with the fraudulent sales.
“He lied to his girlfriend and a friend, saying he needed access to their bank accounts to facilitate funds transfers from his company, but in fact used them to accept payments from his fraudulent sales.
“The sentence handed to Carmen reflects the financial impact and stress his crimes had on his victims and he will be the subject of a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in an attempt to recover some of the money lost.
“This case is also a timely reminder that – with the many sporting and music events on offer in the UK over the summer – people need to be on their guard against fraudsters like Carmen, and we’d advise anyone wanting to buy tickets for an event should only buy them from trusted websites or a legitimate ticket seller.”
A Rochdale businessman, who pocketed nearly £1.25 million in two VAT repayment frauds, has been jailed for five years.
Mubbashir Alam, 39, of Maldon Street in Greater Manchester, set up eight fake clothing companies in a deliberate attempt to claim false VAT repayments. Gemma Caffrey, 33, and Shabana Asim, 45, both also from Rochdale, helped Alam commit the fraud and fronted two of the fake businesses each.
The group hijacked other people’s identities to conceal the ownership of many of the companies in an attempt to disguise their own involvement.
When HMRC tax inspectors visited Alam’s premises in Rochdale, he tried to avoid arrest by persuading others to pretend to be the owners.
The fake companies were described as manufacturing children’s clothing, dealing in large quantities of cloth and yarn and selling sewing machines.
Between 2007 and 2010 the six fake companies were: Symran Concept Ltd, Protec Industries Ltd, Bond Trading, Maple Developments Uk Ltd, Fuzion Textiles and Future Fashions.
The two fake companies Alam and Asim used for fraud were S1 Marketing Ltd and Tristian Industries Ltd. They created false invoices to reclaim £140,000 VAT on materials for the fictitious manufacture and sale of clothing.
Alam and Caffrey pleaded guilty to all charges in July 2014, Alam was sentenced to five years jail and Caffrey to six months imprisonment at Manchester Crown Court on Tuesday 18 November. Asim pleaded guilty and will be sentenced in December.
His Honour Judge Rudland said that Alam “carefully planned a diligent and sustained fraud on the public revenue” and Caffrey, “whilst not a part of the planning process was an essential cog in the machinery”. HHH Rudland reserved comment on Asim until her sentencing date.
Sandra Smith, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said: “Alam went to great lengths over several years to distance himself from the fake companies he set up to commit the fraud. He stole a substantial sum of public money to line his own pockets.
“HMRC will pursue every avenue to ensure that the UK VAT system is not abused in this way. These criminals now face proceeds of crime confiscation proceedings to ensure that the money they stole is restored to the taxpayer.”
APPEAL: Dr Gul-Nawaz Khan Akbar of Mumtaz Restaurant will be appealing the fraud charge later this month after being found guilty by a jury at Bradford Crown Court.
The ‘driving force’ behind of one of Bradford’s most profound food businesses is set to appeal a charge of fraud later this month after being found guilty, despite never benefiting from any financial gain.
Dr Gul-Nawaz Khan Akbar, of Mumtaz, says he is determined to overturn the ruling following a £100,000 fraud case which even the recorder on the day described as an ‘unfortunate’ and ‘unusual’ decision by the jury at Bradford Crown Court.
Dr Akbar was given a nine-month suspended sentence for one year and ordered to pay £34,000 in costs after a conviction for fraud by misrepresentation.
The trial centred on a £100,000 grant application from the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) which was supposed to go towards the new £5million Mumtaz factory on Legrams Lane in Bradford.
However, following complications with planning back in 2011, alongside a number of unavoidable delays, the firm were unable to spend the £1.1million they needed to, in order to receive the funding, before the 11th December deadline.
As no invoices existed for the building’s development, due to it still being in negotiation stage with the contractor, Dr Akbar says he submitted ‘dummy invoices’ as allegedly advised by BIS as a way of ensuring his bid could be placed before the deadline – a procedure Dr Akbar says he was told would be ‘okay’ to proceed with.
Unbeknown to Dr Akbar, the change in government policy led to BIS being ordered to withdraw grants by the Treasury wherever possible.
In order to achieve this, the Mumtaz application was turned away, despite their ‘dummy invoices’ initially being approved and then were to be exchanged for actual invoices when made available just months later to Mumtaz’s representing solicitors.
Speaking about the case and his upcoming appeal, Dr Akbar said he was disappointed to see his business ‘targeted’ by a ‘fraud’ case which threatened to hamper Mumtaz’s reputation.
“I feel that Mumtaz has been targeted in a case that even the judge described as ‘unfortunate’,” Dr Akbar said.
CAPPE: The Legrams Lane site is set to begin operating later this month after several unavoidable delays in its development.
“We have already invested in excess of £5million of our own funds into the project and will have to spend a further £1million before the development is completed.
“This £100,000, which we never even received, was made available to us, and all I did was follow the instructions given to me.
“We were trying to help the city benefit, by creating hundreds of new jobs, and this investment would have gone towards funding the development.
“I feel like somebody has tried to make an example of us, like there is a hidden agenda to target a big name business.”
The jury at the trial consulted for less than an hour before a guilty verdict was put forward, a time frame Dr Akbar and his defence team argues was ‘clearly not enough’ for them to have considered all the evidence.
“My family and I were truly shocked by the verdict after all the evidence was heard throughout the five day trial.” said Dr Akbar. “I am determined to fight on.
“I am grateful to the trial judge who described this as a very unusual case and for stating that I am a businessman who …’through his own diligence and hard work, together with that of his family, had contributed a huge amount to the Bradford community and had created a business that Bradford was rightly proud of’.
“We have 28 days to appeal the verdict and will follow it through however far we have to go.”
Meanwhile, Recorder Hawks said: “I regard this as a highly unusual case because the fact of the matter is that you didn’t get the money.”
“You did build the factory and we’ve all seen the structure that now exists and will no doubt carry your successful business forward.”
Recorder Hawks added that it was ‘a great shame’ to see a businessman with such a background and with as much experience as Dr Akbar convicted of an offence of fraud.