AN organised criminal gang that scammed businesses and charities out of £750,000 through a UK-wide cheque fraud network has been sentenced for a combined total of over 24 years in prison at Inner London Crown Court.
This follows a successful investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit funded by the banking and finance industry.
The ringleader of the gang, Patson Mupinyuri, 37, of Charlecote Way, Northampton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to six years in prison. Two other gang members, Collen Chikore, 42, of Moseley Avenue, Coventry, and Simbarashe Dengu, 30, of The Circle, Nuneaton, both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and were sentenced to six years and two months, and two years and ten months in prison respectively.
Mr Mupinyuri would first research target businesses and gather their banking information including the names, date of birth and address of signatories. He would provide these stolen details to Mr Chikore, who used advanced techniques to produce high quality counterfeit cheques and invoices. Mr Mupinyuri would distribute the counterfeit documents to a network of five individuals, known as “runners”, who presented them at dozens of bank branches across the country from Exeter to Aberdeen.
The criminals used highly convincing counterfeit driving licences as well as stolen account and security details to impersonate the genuine customers. Mr Mupinyuri would organise travel arrangements for the criminal network, spending thousands of pounds hiring luxury cars and booking hotels for them to stay in, including on one occasion a luxury golf resort in Wales.
In total £746,679 of fraud was attempted or committed by the gang over a period of almost thirty months from 27 February 2017 to 9 July 2019. Over 220 counterfeit cheques were used, with a typical value of around £2,000 each.
The bank accounts targeted belonged to a variety of institutions and businesses including charities, schools, town councils and a church. All victims of the fraud were fully refunded by their bank.
The high volume of identical frauds committed was spotted by the banks and referred to the DCPCU to investigate. Last year, the DCPCU caught and prosecuted one of the “runners” involved in the criminal network, Colin Mosdell.
The DCPCU then launched an investigation that successfully tracked down the criminal gang responsible for organising the fraud.
Mr Mupinyuri and Mr Dengu were caught and arrested by DCPCU officers in Hull on 9 July 2019 alongside two of the “runners”, Cynthia Archibong and Toni Shorley. The group were in a Mercedes car preparing to drive off after having tried to cash in several fraudulent cheques at a nearby bank branch.
A search of the vehicle uncovered several items linked to the fraud including an envelope full of cash, a large quantity of counterfeit driving licences, blank cheques plus handwritten notes of bank accounts and names of businesses.
On the same day (9 July 2019), the third gang member Mr Chikore was arrested at his home address in Coventry. A search of the property uncovered equipment used to mass produce counterfeit cheques including specialist printing paper, cutting equipment, UV inks and several colour printers. Subsequent analysis of CCTV footage identified two more of the “runners” who had presented counterfeit cheques at bank branches, Tracey Henry and Amy Browne.
Detective Constable Alex Coubrough, who investigated the case for the DCPCU, said: “We have dismantled a highly organised criminal gang who were committing cheque fraud on an industrial scale. As the ringleader, Mr Mupinyuri oversaw a sophisticated network of individuals who were used to carry out fraud, going as far as booking hotels and luxury cars to transport them around the country.
“The gang used stolen details and advanced equipment to callously target organisations ranging from charities and schools to small businesses. We are delighted to have brought these criminals to justice and to have removed the threat they posed to the banking industry and its customers.”
Patson Daniel Mupinyuri, 37, of Charlecote Way, Northampton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to six years in prison on Thursday 27 February 2020.
Collen Chikore, 42, of Moseley Avenue, Coventry, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to six years and two months in prison on Friday 28 February 2020.
Simbarashe Dengu, 30, of The Circle, Nuneaton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to two years and ten months in prison on Thursday 27 February 2020.
Toni Shorley, 38, from Cardiff, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to two years and one month in prison on Thursday 27 February 2020.
Tracey Henry, 52, from London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to three years and three months in prison on Thursday 27 February 2020.
Cynthia Archibong, 48, from Grays, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to three years and one month in prison on Thursday 27 February 2020.
Colin Mosdell, 33, of no fixed abode, was previously sentenced to 27 months in prison on Tuesday 23 July 2019, after pleading guilty to fraud by false representation.
Amy Browne, 37, from North London, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and received a custodial sentence of 18 months on Friday 6 March 2020.