A gang of fraudsters stole thousands of pounds from pensioners’ savings pots and funnelled the money to Islamic State, a court has heard. Among the victims were a Second World War veteran, and an elderly woman who was driven to the brink of suicide by the gang’s actions.
The gang of nine defrauded at least 18 victims out of more than £900,000 in total, although police identified 140 offences in total. None of the money stolen was recouped, and some of the victims died penniless while others were awarded a token sum by their banks in compensation.
One of the gang relied on his family’s close connection to Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to secure bail, it is reported.
Among their victims were 87-year-old Patricia Burnham who lost £135,000; recently widowed Thomas Garrett, 86, who lost £3,000; and Kenneth Whitaker, 93, who fought with the Army Air Corps. The gang stole £113,000 from him, The Times has reported.
The conmen used a “voice phishing” technique involving posing as police officers and calling their victims, instructing them to ring the police or their bank immediately. By staying online, they were able to remain connected and harvest confidential data which allowed them access to the victims’ accounts.
An investigation was launched after suspicious payments were tracked entering the account of a British jihadi fighting in Syria.
The gang included 23-year-old Mohammed Dahir, for whom Jeremy Corbyn wrote a supporting letter asking a judge for bail just before Christmas because he had “roots in the area” and was unlikely to abscond. A spokesman from his office said that the terrorism link was not part of the court case, and had not come to light when the letter was written.
Dahir’s mother Amina Farah, 40, from Somalia said: “We are family friends [of Corbyn’s]. We always fought for him, for Labour. We have known him for many years. He is a nice man.
“We are a good family. We don’t want any problems. I don’t know why they arrested my son.”
Dahir’s 20-year-old nursing student sister said of the family’s relationship with Mr. Corbyn: “My father is a close friend of his. He [Mr. Corbyn] was able to vouch for my brother, for us, we are thankful to him. We had to prove my brother was innocent. Clearly if my brother was a criminal, he would not have participated.
“My dad spoke to Jeremy personally and asked him to help. He is really close friends with my father, they have done a lot of community work together”.
The bail request was granted.
Along with Dahir, Shakaria Aden, 21, Yasser Abukar, 23, and Mohammed Abokar, 28, were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud.
Mohammed Abokar was also convicted of converting criminal property, the Mail reported.
Fahim Islam, 20, Achmed Abdulaziz Ahmed, 23, and Makzhumi Abukar, 23, previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud.
Anrul Islam, 24, and Mohammed Youssfi, 37, pleaded guilty to money laundering.
After the verdicts Commander Richard Walton, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) said: “This callous group of criminals stole vast sums of money from extremely vulnerable and elderly people from across the country.
“Their despicable actions have had a terrible and devastating impact on their victims with some losing their life savings. The targeting of vulnerable men and women in their 80s and 90s is quite simply beyond belief.
“This was a scam on a huge national scale detected by specialist financial investigators who have stopped the targeting of even more victims. Our investigation remains on-going and we will continue to arrest and prosecute anyone involved in this fraud.
“We uncovered this fraud after a separate terrorist investigation found suspicious payments into a bank account of an individual who is now believed to have travelled to Syria.”
At the Old Bailey, Judge Anujar Dhir delayed sentencing until Wednesday.