Published: 13:37, 09 December 2019
| Updated: 14:00, 09 December 2019
Two people have been jailed for running an international money laundering scam syndicate from a corner shop.
Police began investigating the Latom "O" Store mini-market in Batchelor Street, Chatham, after they noticed an unusually high amount of money going into the business.
The shop was run by Laide Seriki, of Dale Street, Chatham.
Through the business - which had been registered as a money service business - Seriki made payments of £259,541 between August and December 2014 and received £251,013.
Detectives uncovered false driving licences, passport numbers, addresses and names when trying to identify the people who had received money via the business.
Investigators sent letters to 49 people who had transferred money to the business asking them why they had done so, prompting 22 responses from victims of online scams.
Victims from as far afield as Australia, New Zealand and the United States said they had been tricked into believing they were responding to a friend who needed help, sending money to a love interest or paying for lottery winnings to be transferred to them.
The money was sent away from the business from computer addresses in Crawley.
Happy Bah, 33, from Crawley was arrested along with Kwame Bryan, of Rowan Road, Hammersmith on October 20, 2015.
It was established Bryan had been receiving monthly payments from Bah and had been responsible for introducing him to Seriki.
Bah was jailed for four years and nine months in July 2018 after pleading guilty to two counts of money laundering - which was also linked to a wider investigation focussing on an operation linked to a closed business in the West Sussex town worth up to £750,000.
Seriki, 46, was jailed for four years and one month after pleading guilty to money laundering offences.
Bryan, 48, was handed a custodial sentence of five years and nine months after being convicted at a trial at Maidstone Crown Court.
Both were also given a five-year Serious Crime Prevention Order which means they will be subject to a number of conditions designed to prevent them from reoffending once they have been released from prison.
Det Insp James Derham from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "Laide Seriki and Kwame Bryan played a key role in this money laundering operation, linking them to callous scams affecting victims from around the world.
"Many of these had fallen in love with fictitious people before being tricked into paying them thousands of pounds.
"Both attempted to run away from their crimes but I am pleased the court has recognised the seriousness of their offending with these custodial sentences.
"It is important to never send money to someone online you have never met and always think twice about posting personal information online which could be used to manipulate or bribe you.
"This fraud can be defeated by spreading public awareness and encouraging friends and family to always check the legitimacy of a stranger who has contacted them online.
"If you believe you are a victim of this fraud or know someone who is, please visit Action Fraud online or call 0300 123 2040.
"You can also report money laundering offences to us by calling 101 or visiting www.kent.police.uk/report.’
More by this authorKatie May Nelson