Two Nigerians have been jailed in the United Kingdom (U.K.) for defrauding the government to the tune of £489,000 (about N259 million at official exchange rate) under the coronavirus relief “Bounce Back loan” scheme.
The U.K. Metropolitan Police said in a statement on its website, Thursday, that the convicts Timilehin Olasemo, 39, and Olufumi Akinneye, 33, had already obtained £297,000 (about N157 million) before the remaining amount was stopped by the bank
The statement said the convicts were jailed after they pleaded guilty to the crime before the Southwark Crown Court in London.
According to the statement, Ms Olasemo, of Bedale Road, Romford, was sentenced to three years and two months’ imprisonment for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Mr Akinneye of Cowthorpe Road, Lambeth, was sentenced to a total of five years and six months’ imprisonment for fraud, money laundering charges. He was also convicted for his involvement in romance fraud.
They had both pleaded guilty to the offences levelled on against then by the Economic Crime Unit, part of the Metropolitan Police Command on November 12, 2020 at Southwark Crown Court.
The U.K. government created had created the “Bounce Bank loan scheme” to support businesses struggling through the lack of economic activity as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The government-backed loan was managed through U.K. banks.
The size of the loan is determined by turnover demonstrated by the business to the satisfaction of the bank.
The U.K Met Police said the convicts exploited the government scheme by creating fake businesses by using the identities of real people, to apply for the loan.
“As the business account had been registered to a separate address to the personal account holder’s address, its existence would not become apparent to the real personal account holder until the bank chased them for the loan repayments,” the U.K Met police said.
According to the report, an investigation into the organised criminal activities began after the Met’s North West Economic Crime Unit, of the Metropolitan Police Service’s Central Specialist Crime Command, discovered that £489,000 worth of fraudulent loan applications were made using 10 identities.
It added that about £297,000 worth of loans were successfully obtained by the pair and ‘dissipated’. The remaining amount was successfully stopped by the banks.
The police said Mr Akinneye was the first out of the two to be identified, while details of fraud linking to Ms Olasemo were later discovered from evidence seized during the former’s arrest on August 2020.
According to the report, Ms Olasemo was thereafter arrested on October 16, last year, at her home. They were both charged and remanded in custody the same day.
The report said Ms Olasemo sought advice from Mr Akinneye as her accomplice in the fraudulent scheme.
The police explained that Mr Akinneye provided Ms Olasemo with guidance about laundering the proceeds of the frauds and safe addresses to use as correspondence for accounts.
According to the report, Mr Akinneye also acted as a middle-man between people who were willing to sell their bank accounts for use in the fraud and other fraudsters who needed mule accounts to receive money obtained from diversion frauds.
The police said investigations also revealed that Ms Olasemo had obtained and used the personal details of eight individuals to fraudulently apply for the loans. She was said to have stolen these identities after accessing employee records containing personal information during her employment.
They fraudulently obtained monies paid into the business bank account before being dispersed into mule accounts and later withdrawn from cash machines.
Mr Akinneye was also convicted for his involvement in romance fraud.
Analysis of his phone revealed that he had set up a false persona – pretending to be a woman online to ensnare men – fabricating several stories in order to request money for flights, accommodation and a replacement passport.
Investigators said in some instances, victims of the romance scam were duped into becoming money mules themselves by allowing fraudulent funds to be paid into their own bank accounts.
He Akinneye was arrested on August 20, 2020 by officers from the Met’s North West Economic Crime Unit. He was charged and remanded the same day.
Meanwhile, Chris Collins, of the Met’s North West Economic Crime Unit, said, “Today’s result serves as evidence of the zero-tolerance approach the MPS takes to individuals found guilty of fraud.”
Mr Collins, a Detective Constable of the Met Police added that “We will continue to crack down on individuals who are found to be exploiting government schemes for their own monetary gain.”
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