February 19th 2014
Eight people have been sentenced for their part in an online dating scam which netted more than £750,000 victims from at least 70 victims, all living abroad.
The fraud was first uncovered when a woman from Brooklyn, New York, contacted police after realising the 'handsome Italian' she had formed a relationship with online was in fact a gang of fraudsters. She had sent him the equivalent of £7,700 to help him move to the US to, he said' start a new life with her.
The account into which the money was paid was traced to 36 year-old Minhaj Uddin (shown here on the right), following which a search of his family's Cardiff home unearthed a diary with records of money received from numerous victims. Uddin, his brother Muhiudd Jaber aged 32 and sister Rumana Begum aged 25, had laundered £300,000 for the criminal gang.
It was not just dating fraud that the gang was involved in. One victim was told that he had won a fortune on the Spanish lottery but would have to come to the UK to collect his winnings. On arrival, he was shown a suitcase full of pieces of black paper which he was told were Euros – disguised for security reasons. He was also sold an expensive chemica and told that it would change the paper back into Euros when applied.
Eight of ten people convicted over the frauds were sentenced. The judge at Cardiff Crown Court said although that they had not played a direct role in the scams, they had enabled them to operate. Judge David Wynn Morgan said: "As a result of large scale and in some cases particularly vicious frauds, a large number of individuals in various parts of the world were deceived into thinking they had found the partner of their dreams or inherited sums or were lottery winners. The connection between what each of you did and the heartbreak of those deprived of their funds is clearly established.”
Uddin was jailed for 16 months and Jaber for two years. Begum received 1 months' supervision with 150 hours' unpaid community work. Anthony Ekpunobi, 32, from Liverpool was imprisoned for 42 months; Arfan Sawar, 42, from Manchester received 16 months; Abdul Chowdhury, 48, from Manchester received 12 months; Mazarhull Quddus, from Manchester received a 12 month suspended sentence; and Fahima Ruhi, 36, from Manchester an 18-month community order with a 12-week nighttime curfew.
The other two convicted fraudsters are from Manchester and will be sentenced later this month.