A GROUP of fraudsters who conned vulnerable victims out of nearly £1 million whilst purporting to be fine-wine brokers have been jailed for a total of 17 years’ and nine months.
The men were sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on Friday, 5 April after being found guilty of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, as follows:
Adam Edwards, 37 (03.09.81) of Clavering, Hertfordshire was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment, and a five-year Directors Disqualification Order.
Barry Warner, 38 (31.08.80) of Theydon Bois, Essex, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.
Tarik Drissi, 35 (29.01.84) of Harlow was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Two co-conspirators also pleaded guilty to the same offences in June and December 2018 and were sentenced alongside their counterparts who stood trial.
Christopher Brummit, 36 (13.06.82) of Ugley, Bishop Stortford was sentenced in his absence to three years and three months’ imprisonment, plus a five-year Directors Disqualification Order.
Officers are appealing for assistance from the public to trace Brummit who was last seen in October 2018 in London. A warrant has been issued for his arrest in relation to this matter and he is further wanted by Essex Police for an unrelated robbery offence.
James Brooks, 34 (07.09.84) of Takeley, Bishop Stortford was sentenced to 20 months’ imprisonment – suspended for two years – and ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work
The court heard how between 2013 and 2015, more than 50 people became unwitting victims of the groups wide-scale fraud and money laundering scam.
The groups would cold-call elderly or vulnerable people, introduce themselves under fake names and claim they were brokers with expertise in fine wine.
They operated from an industrial estate on the outskirts of Great Dunmow and claimed to work for three companies – Mayfair Worldwide Trading Ltd, Commodex Global Limited and Winchester Associates Ltd – based in prime locations such as Mayfair. These companies were found to be fake.
Once they would get hold of the victim, they would call them repeatedly and persuade them to sell their holding, or invest in fine wines, whilst stating they could sell them on their behalf for a profit. On some occasions the victims were told their wines would be exchanged for graphene or diamonds that did not exist.
The victims would transfer their wines hoping to receive their agreed payments within 28 days, however none of the victims ever received this promised money.
In August 2015, officers from the Met’s Organised Crime Command launched a joint investigation with Essex Police after numerous victims came forward and reported their suspicions to Action Fraud.
Forensic analysis and financial investigations linked the defendants to the offences.
On 15 November 2015, the police investigation culminated in a series of search warrants and all five defendants were arrested. A substantial amount of contacts containing victims details were found within the properties.
They were all charged with conspiracy to defraud and money laundering in January and February 2018.
During sentencing, the Judge commended the officers in the case, Detective Constable Tony Rundle, Detective Inspector Nicola Bourke and Detective Inspector Michael Pannell, for the quality of their joint police investigation into what was described as a “very complex, highly organised, calculated fraud”.
DC Tony Rundle, who led the investigation, said: “This group of fraudsters targeted vulnerable people across the United Kingdom, scamming them out of huge sums of money for their own financial gain.
“Our officers carried out a meticulous investigation and I am pleased the gang will now face justice for their calculated actions which ruined the lives of many victims.
“I would like to thank my colleagues for their hard work and dedication throughout this long running investigation.
“However, our investigation continues to trace Brummit who fled from police in October 2018. I would urge anyone who may know about his whereabouts to call police on 101. For an immediate sighting, please dial 999.”
Detective Sergeant Michael Pannell, from Essex Police, added: “These defendants were audacious and confident enough to think the use of fake names would prevent them from being caught. However, thanks to the thorough police investigation, they were proved wrong.”
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