A student who laundered cash on behalf of a £20million telephone banking fraud gang has been put behind bars.
Ravi Jaglan helped process huge sums of money obtained by fraudsters who conned vulnerable customers into handing over their bank details in an elaborate scam.
The 23-year-old, who was studying mechanical engineering at South Tyneside College, tried to recruit fellow students to allow their bank accounts to be used in the fraud in return for cash.
Prosecutors say Jaglan was not the mastermind of the “highly organised criminal gang” but neither was he at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Jaglan, who came to the UK on a student visa, which has now expired, pleaded guilty to converting criminal property on the basis that about £250,000 of the gang’s cash passed through his personal accounts.
At Newcastle Crown Court, Judge Robin Mairs jailed Jaglan, of Dean Road, South Shields, for 32 months.
The judge told him: “These frauds cannot operate unless people like you are willing to allow their bank accounts to be used to move the funds around.
“In total, just under £250,000 was moved through your accounts and you were willingly allowing them to be used.
“I accept you did not have any idea of just how enormous this fraud was, but you must have known from the figures going through your bank that this was a substantial fraud.
“It was a highly sophisticated, professional scam.”
The court heard the “highly organised” criminal gang would cold call victims, telling them their bank accounts had been hacked or somehow the subject of a scam.
The fraudster would pretend to hang up at the end of a conversation, where they advised the victim to ring the telephone number on the back of their bank card.
But the conmen would keep the line open while the customer thought they were dialling out to their bank.
The customer would then be duped into believing they were speaking to a legitimate bank worker and persuaded into transferring huge sums of cash into criminals’ accounts.
The calls were so convincing, some customers were persuaded to go to their bank to carry out transactions but told to say nothing while in the branch in case the purported ‘fraudsters’ were employees there.
Prosecutor Kevin Wardlaw told the court: “The defendant was part of a highly organised criminal gang who carried out sophisticated telephone frauds on vulnerable victims.
“He did not carry them out himself, but allowed his bank accounts to be used to channel money.
“He recruited other people to lend assistance.
“Such was the gang’s sophistication and slickness, they obtained in excess of £20million in this way.
“The involvement of Ravi Jaglan is less than that amount.
“The prosecution case is Ravi Jaglan was more than a mule who allowed his bank accounts to be used and he was higher up the criminal hierarchy.”
Mr Wardlaw said the fraudsters had some knowledge of their victims, such as what bank they used.
He added: “They would inform the victim there was fraudulent activity. They were instructed to ring the telephone number on the back of their own bank card.
“On ringing the number, the victim assumed they were speaking to their bank.
“Unfortunately, they were not. The caller had left the line open.”
The court heard the many victims who fell prey to the scam were left feeling extremely vulnerable and worried about huge losses of cash and savings.
Graeme Cook, defending, said Jaglan, who came to the UK in 2013, claims to have made very little profit, no more than £500, through his involvement in the scam between November 2013 and April 2014.
Mr Cook said Jaglan hopes to re-sit some of the exams he failed at college and find work on ships abroad after his release.
Hopes sentence will deter others
Detective Constable Jon Griffiths, who works for the North East Regional Fraud Team, welcomed the outcome and warns other offenders that police are watching.
DC Griffiths said: “We welcome the sentence today and hope it serves as a warning to others. Jaglan has committed and profited from these malicious crimes. Without the actions of Jaglan those who are committing the frauds themselves would have no outlet. The fraudsters profited by taking advantage of good, trusting, people by faking an authoritative figure, which many people would believe to be genuine”.
“Sadly this is a crime that is affecting us here in the North East and we are doing all we can to prevent these offenders from targeting our communities.
“We would ask everyone to remain vigilant and look out for family, friends and neighbours. If you get a call from someone that seems unusual or someone asking for money, report it to police.
“Banks, police or officials would not ask you to transfer money into another account. If you receive a call of this nature, please contact police.”
Advice can be found on the Action Fraud Website.