UNITED KINGDOM: Proceeds of crime proceedings have begun against mail interception fraudsters who targeted mainly rural addresses across the North East.
Two leading members of the gang were jailed and three accomplices received suspended sentences after they were convicted at Durham Crown Court earlier this year.
The court heard their crimes involved them intercepting postal deliveries to remote addresses, many of them farms, with exterior mail boxes.
Letters would be removed enabling gang members to use the identities of the victims to take out credit, while newly dispatched debit cards, containing PIN details, were removed and used.
Available credit illegally obtained was often transferred onto high-value gift cards, as bank cards could be stopped at short notice.
The court was told the value of credit obtained by the gang was estimated to be in the region of £164,000, not all of which was used, while the trial judge said that figure may only be, “the tip of the iceberg.”
Victims, initially unaware their accounts had been compromised and drained, were left shocked when their own genuine transactions were cancelled, while their credit ratings were also affected, although the banks involved eventually largely withstood the losses.
Investigators from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) established a hierarchy within the gang.
Lead figures Raphael Munemo and Tendai Dlamini, who both have previous convictions for mail theft, denied charges of conspiracy to defraud and fraud, but were found guilty following a trial in February.
Munemo, now 34, a Zambian national living in Nottingham, received a three-year prison sentence, and his 41-year-old co-accused, a Zimbabwean refugee, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was given a one-year prison term.
Their three accomplices, all Zimbabwean nationals living in the UK, each admitted conspiracy to defraud at an earlier plea hearing.
Vincent Zwoushe-Zhanje, 32, of Banbridge, County Down, in Northern Ireland, was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, with a 250-hour unpaid work order and 30 probation-led rehabilitation days.
Gray Gwewo, 28, from Leeds, and 28-year-old Ndhlovu, of Bedford, each received 14-month prison sentences, also suspended for two years.
Both were also ordered to perform 180 hours’ unpaid work and take part in 30 rehabilitation days with the Probation Service.
Munemo and Dlamini appeared again at the court today (Friday September 30), via video link from HMPs Northumberland and Leeds, respectively.
Jonathan Harley, for the prosecution, said the agreed benefit and confiscation figures for all but Zwoushe-Zhanse have yet to be finalised, but should be in coming weeks.
Tom Bennett, for Zwoushe-Zhanje, said it was agreed he benefited by £37,123 from his involvement in the fraudulent activity, but the available amount for confiscation is just £150.
He said the £150 was from a now closed Bitcoin account in the defendant’s name.
Recorder Alex Menary, therefore, ordered confiscation of the £150, to be paid within three months, with seven days in prison in default.
Settlement hearings for his four co-accused were adjourned until October 28.