Five suspected con artists appear in court after string of 'courier fraud' cases reported

Five suspected con artists have appeared in court accused of scamming pensioners out of £200,000.

Friday, 30th July 2021, 2:10 pm
Police said one of the alleged victims was from South Tyneside

Police identified six victims in South Tyneside, Newcastle, Durham, Darlington and West Yorkshire in September 2020 who had all been contacted by fraudsters purporting to be police officers.

The complex scam known as courier fraud saw criminals convince their victims their bank accounts had been scammed and asked them to help officers investigate by supplying ‘vital evidence’ in the form of cash, valuables and bank details.

A total in excess of £200,000 was handed over to fraudsters.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The incidents were all reported to police and expert fraud officers from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) soon launched an investigation.

On October 21 last year, warrants were executed at properties in London, Warwickshire and the West Midlands and four suspects, two aged 18, and two aged 25, were arrested.

Another warrant was then executed in the West Midlands in January this year and a 22-year-old man arrested.

Further enquiries then identified a second man, aged 20, believed to be involved who was then interviewed in March.

The six suspects had initially been released under investigation, and five of which have now been charged with conspiring to commit fraud by false representation after appearing at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court on July 23. They are due to appear at Teesside Crown Court on August 27.

A warrant was issued for the arrest of the sixth suspect who failed to attend the court.

Detective Constable Andy Thompson, the officer in charge of the case, said it is vital victims of fraud continue to challenge cold-callers and report anything suspicious to police.

“This is a great result for us but our work in detecting and preventing fraud is far from over,” he said.

“Sadly many people who find themselves caught up in a complex scam like courier fraud are often unaware they’ve been a victim.

“We would always encourage families to keep speaking with their elderly relatives and ask if anyone has called them out of the blue, or if they have recently withdrawn money or handed over any valuables.”

He added: “Help us to reinforce the message that police officers or your bank will never ask you to hand over money, or transfer funds. If you receive a call like this, do not interact - hang up and report it immediately.”

Work to tackle fraud remains ongoing with the Detectives from Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland Police working together with the North East Regional Special Operation Unit (NERSOU) as part of Operation Sentinel.

The Operation Lead, Detective Sergeant Shaun Fordy added: “We will continue to relentlessly pursue those who seek to scam the elderly, the vulnerable and the unsuspecting. Please help us by challenging and reporting cold-callers to help us build up our intelligence picture.

“And – if this does happen to you, please do not be embarrassed to contact us and ask for help.”

Northumbria Police & Crime Commissioner Kim McGuinness added praise to the investigation, and reminded residents to be vigilant against further scam attempts.

She said: “These brazen criminals have no shame and no remorse, they will target anyone they can and take whatever is possible.

“Please do follow the advice, share with family members, and remember to report any suspected instances so that we protect other residents. It’s really important we work together to prevent this shameless crime.”

If you think you might have been a victim of courier fraud, contact police via 101 or Action Fraud by calling 0300 123 2040.

Support your Gazette and become a subscriber today. Enjoy unlimited access to local news, the latest football stories and new puzzles every day. With a digital subscription, you can see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Click here to subscribe.