Published: 14:43, 11 June 2018
| Updated: 15:17, 11 June 2018
A fraudster who posed as a police officer to con thousands of pounds out of elderly victims has been jailed for five years.
Hamza Ali, once a sparring partner of American world champion boxer Danny Garcia, was part of a gang that targeted 26 victims in Sittingbourne.
The 23-year-old was involved in defrauding victims out of £28,290 and attempts to obtain £23,500.
One woman, aged 90, was persuaded to hand over £20,000 worth of jewellery and relieved of £3,790 in cash.
In a fraud described as a “franchise”, there were more than 130 complaints in Kent from August last year and the total sum obtained nationwide was over £750,000.
Ali, of Gladstone Park Gardens, Cricklewood, north west London, denied conspiracy to defraud but changed his plea to guilty during his trial last month.
Dujuane Mezu, of Grosvenor Avenue, Highbury, north London, admitted the offence on the basis of being a “courier”, posing as a police officer, on three occasions.
He was sentenced to a total of 17 months – 12 months for the conspiracy and five months consecutive for breach of a suspended sentence.
Maidstone Crown Court heard the scam involved phone calls being made to mainly pensioners and convincing them they were assisting a police investigation into staff misconduct at banks.
They were then asked to withdraw cash without telling staff the reason.
"Standing back, this was clearly a well-planned and sophisticated conspiracy..." - Judge Philip St John-Stevens
Prosecutor Tom Dunn said Ali played a leading role in the conspiracy.
The elaborate plot involved a caller posing as a police officer and asking victims to hang up and dial 999 to establish the authenticity of the request.
But the line remained open. Victims were then persuaded to go to their banks and withdraw “significant” sums of money.
A “police” courier was arranged with a designated password to collect the money. As part of the charade victims were asked to read out serial numbers on banknotes.
Ali came to the notice of real police officers following the arrest of 21-year-old Mezu.
One pensioner who was not fooled was 78-year-old Gladys Butcher, of Grovehurst Road, Sittingbourne, who became suspicious and contacted the real police.
She was in October last year asked to withdraw £2,000 and told that as soon as she did so the cashier would be arrested. She was given the password “Brian”.
She told her husband and they went to the town’s police station to report the scam. As they did so, her husband stayed on the phone to the caller.
A sting was then set up. Real police officers were waiting when Mezu arrived to collect the cash. On seeing one of the officers, he exclaimed: “Oh s---.”
Ali and his girlfriend Sade Buie were arrested at Luton Airport on October 30 when returning from a holiday in Venice on November 1.
He had a “significant” quantity of cash and was wearing a £4,000 Rolex watch.
Mr Dunn said police raided an address in Kentish Town, north west London, rented by Ali, and seized £23,500 hidden in a Tupperware box in the bedroom.
The 90-year-old woman who was conned out of jewellery and cash was contacted on October 23 and told her bank account had been compromised.
She was instructed to cut up her debit card, leaving the magnetic strip intact, put it in an envelope and place it in a bag with her jewellery.
She was told to leave the bag outside her front door and it would be collected by a courier as they would be safer while the “investigation” was ongoing.
Later that day she was asked to authorise the sum of £3,790 at a store in London.
CCTV at the shop showed Ali entering and another man handing over a bank card.
“She feels absolutely shattered by the whole situation.” - Grahame James, defending
Ali was of previous good character. Mezu was in April last year given a six-month suspended sentence for taking cannabis in a prison. He was given a conditional discharge in June for possessing heroin.
Grahame James, for Ali, said his client sparred with Danny Garcia, a world champ in two weight classes, in Philadelphia.
“It requires dedication and discipline,” said Mr James. “That was the young man he was.”
The pensioner, aged 90, was the greatest loser of “treasured” jewellery she wanted to hand down to her children.
“That can’t be returned,” said Mr James. “She feels absolutely shattered by the whole situation.”
Judge Philip St John-Stevens said it was “a high impact case”, which moved it up a category in sentencing guidelines for Ali.
“The victims were vulnerable,” he said. “It seems difficult to imagine greater harm in a case like this.
"Standing back, this was clearly a well-planned and sophisticated conspiracy. There were a large number of victims and it was over a sustained period.”
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