Five defendants who allowed a “clever fraudster” to use their banks accounts to swindle an elderly couple of their £36,000 life savings have walked free.
Burnley Crown Court heard the five all had suspicions there was something dodgy about the money but had no idea of the exact “vile” nature of the crime, something the Judge told them was a factor keeping any of them from immediate imprisonment,
Justine Davies (44), of Railway Street, Nelson, Sheree Morgan (25), of Pilgrim Street, Nelson, Daniel Webster (23), of Pilgrim Street, Nelson, Mohammed Aadil (21) from Leeds and Sophie Morgan (21) had all admitted converting criminal property.
Sheree Morgan was handed an eight-month prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work. Webster was given a four-month jail term suspended for two years and told to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work. Davies and Aadil were each handed one-year community orders with 150 hours unpaid work; Sophie Morgan received a one-year community order with 120 hours unpaid work.
Stephen Parker (prosecuting) told the court Cyril and Joyce Rose, both in their 80s and from Cardiff, had received a phone call from a well-spoken man purporting to be from the Metropolitan Police. He told them they were victims, or could be victims, of a bank account fraud run by a gang and would give them details of secure bank accounts to which they should move their money.
Mr Parker said any doubts the couple had were alleviated as the man was well-spoken, had a persuasive nature and seemed to know what he was talking about, including that they had made a £50 transaction at Asda, something he added the man “must have been lucky” guessing.
The couple were also told bank staff were involved in the fraud, so if they were asked why they were withdrawing the money to tell staff it was for work at home.
Mr Parker said the couple set about going in to various branches to arrange this, each time giving the impression the money was for home improvements. The court was told this was one of the reasons why the bank was not compensating the couple as staff had not acted with negligence.
Sheree Morgan received £12,700 in total, her then boyfriend Webster £10,250, Davies £8,390, Aadil £6,800 and Sophie Morgan £4,800. Money was then withdrawn and transferred to an unidentified Asian man and all received payments for the deed, the court heard.
Mr Parker said Davies had a previous debt to the man that was cleared by taking part in the scam and mother of-two Sheree Morgan received £700, having been asked by the Asian man to allow money to go through her account.
Sophie Morgan was paid £200 for her role having been asked by her sister if she was interested.
Mr Parker said Webster admitted agreeing to it as he didn’t want anything coming back to his door, adding he had been left with £1,000. Aadil didn’t get anything and said a friend had asked to use his account for the sale of car.
Kevin Donnelly (defending Webster and Sheree Morgan) admitted the latter had received the most and encouraged other family members to become involved. He said she had an “unimpressive record” for a woman her age but was “shocked” to learn where the money had come from.
Mr Donnelly said Webster, father of Sheree Morgan’s seven-month-old son, had a series of offences for violence but fatherhood and the seriousness of his last conviction had given him a “reality check”. He quoted a probation report saying Webster’s lifestyle was “almost unrecognizable” now to the one he had been living.
Simon Gurney (for Sophie Morgan) said she “expressed great shame” and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
James Heyworth (for Davies) said she owed a debt and a loan shark had a degree of control over her. Mr Heyworth added she was “not proud” at having used the £90 left over in her account and this had been a “one off”.
Aadil’s defence, Bob Sastry, said his client was “well thought of” by peers and his family were “shocked and disappointed” by what he had done.