A GANG of conmen trading out of Cleckheaton have been jailed for a combined total of almost 20 years.
Mohammed Mansha Abbas (pictured), Mohammed Zulfgar Abbas, Mohammed Vaqaas Abbas and Imran Shan – of Bespoke Home Security Ltd and Bespoke Home Improvements Group Ltd – were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court for a “sophisticated fraud” on Tuesday.
The court heard the company, which was based at Ridings House on Westgate, overcharged customers for unnecessary security and home improvement products.
A four-year investigation carried out by Trading Standards unearthed a total of 28 victims, who were predominantly vulnerable and elderly – including an 89-year-old blind woman who suffered from Alzheimer’s.
The defendants deliberately focused on pensioners by buying call-data for homeowners over 60 and would repeatedly target customers with whom they had success in the past.
Mansha Abbas, Zulfgar Abbas, Vaqaas Abbas, all from Heckmondwike, and Shan, of Leeds, were all given lengthy sentences.
A fifth defendant, Nasir Munir, will be sentenced at a later date for his part in the fraud.
Victims of the fraud were initially cold-called by National Survey Line Ltd staff, who had been provided with dishonest scripts.
The victim would be told of rising crime rates and persuaded that there was a need for further security products to be installed in their home.
If the victim agreed to a home visit one of the five defendants, who each carried out the role of salesman, would attend at the property.
They would stay in the victim’s home for several hours, encouraging them to immediately sign a contract for work that was often over-priced or unnecessary.
In several cases the victims believed they were receiving a government grant, which didn’t exist, towards the price of the works.
A number of the victims had loans taken out in their names to pay for works without their knowledge. The group set up bank accounts using the victims’ ID to make the repayments.
Others had loans taken out in their names even though they hadn’t had any work done by the company.
On one occasion the defendants even took a victim’s bank card details in order to make purchases themselves and set up online banking facilities in the victim’s name in order to control their finances.
West Yorkshire Police began investigating the men in March 2017 and found one male victim had been conned out of £3,500 after the gang posed as representatives of a solar panel company.
They approached the man and pretended to give him a refund for his solar panels via a chip and pin card machine.
Instead, they extracted the money from his account.
During the course of the police investigation an iPhone seized from Munir was examined. Officers found a series of WhatsApp messages exchanged between the defendants in which they discussed the people they were targeting.
One read: “Perfect profile. Single lady, 89 years old, blind, disabled, Alzheimer’s.”
Reacting to the sentencing, PCC Mark Burns-Williamson said: “This is another shocking and cruel example of exploitation perpetrated against the vulnerable.
“These sentences and outcomes should act as a strong deterrent to others. Results such as these really do help to keep our communities safe.”
Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 proceedings will now follow to recover the defendants’ benefit from criminal conduct and compensate their victims.
Full sentence details for the gang:
• Mohammed Mansha Abbas, of Leeds Old Road, Heckmondwike, pleaded guilty to three counts of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to nine years. He was also banned as a director for a further 10 years.
• Mohammed Zulfqar Abbas, of Greenfields, Heckmondwike, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to four-and-a-half years. He was banned as a director for seven years.
• Mohammed Vaqaas Abbas, also of Greenfields, Heckmondwike, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to three years.
• Imran Shan, of Leeds, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud and was sentenced to three years.
• Another defendant in the case, Roman Le, who sourced the card machine used in the fraud, was convicted of money laundering and sentenced to 12 months, suspended for two years. He was also ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work.