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Internet fraudster spared jail for £164k con

Scales of justice
Scales of justice

by Keith Hunt

A woman convicted of laundering almost £164,000 in criminal cash through an internet scam has escaped a jail sentence.

Olayinka Surakat was told by a judge he could suspend 12 months imprisonment for two years because she was of previous good character and she had children.

The mother-of-three, of Grange Road, Gillingham, will also have to complete 240 hours unpaid work.

Surakat was working for Superdrug as a manager and running a shop in Gillingham when she committed the offence, Maidstone Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Deepak Kapur described the handbag shop Muzani in Skinner Street called Muzani as a “damp squib” and facade of a business making hardly any money.

She had taken out a lease on the premises. The landlord ran Western Union, a business that transferred money from one end of the world to the other.

Unknown to the landlord, Surakat signed up with Western Union as an agent and the company’s software was installed at her shop.

A victim moving home in America sent a deposit and the first month’s rent on a property but discovered she had been deceived.

Police raided Surakat’s shop in October 2009 and found it was empty.

Documents and a computer were seized. Officers then went to her home but she was not there.

Mr Kapur said it was discovered that £164,000 from overseas had been sent to other countries. The frauds were mainly perpetrated in the United States.

“Ill-gotten gains were sent by innocent individuals from America,” said the prosecutor.

“Fictitious characters were created as recipients of the money. Somebody in Nigeria was taking the money.”

Surakat, 37, denied knowing what was happening. She said she was working most of the time at Superdrug in Romford, Essex, and her shop was run by others.

Judge David Caddick told Surakat it was not the case she was an innocent dupe to her brother, but played a full part in setting up the business.

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