Fraudsters who stole £60,000 during a conspiracy which saw 47 elderly victims targeted have been jailed for a combined total of over eight years.
All but one of the victims singled out by Aaron Leacock, Warren Roache or Sean Lee was aged 70 or over, with the bulk of the offending committed in Kent.
Each offender admitted to conspiring to commit fraud by false representation and was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court on Friday 11 March 2022 following an investigation by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
Pensioners were targeted in Gravesend, Dartford, West Kingsdown, Maidstone and Penshurst but also in Essex, Hertfordshire, Hampshire, south London and Northamptonshire.
Although the criminality spanned a large area, the pattern of offending remained very consistent – a victim would be phoned by a person claiming to be from their bank and told that a courier was coming to collect their card due to an issue.
To give a veneer of legitimacy, the caller would ask various ‘security’ questions and this enabled them to gain excessive amounts of personal information.
Once the cards had been collected, Roache and Lee used them to withdraw large sums of money or purchase goods at shops close to the victims’ homes. On a few occassions the card would also be used at businesses and cash machines close to the offenders’ homes.
The victims were always called from unregistered, pre-paid sim cards on cheap mobile phones, often referred to as ‘burner’ handsets. Both items were often discarded after being used for a few days.
Despite the attempts to evade capture, detectives were able to review the victims’ call data and this showed a considerable proportion of them were being contacted from the Purley High Street area.
The location was close to where Leacock, a man who had already served two prison sentences for similar crimes, had rented an office.
Further analysis of phone data helped to prove that he made the phone-calls to the victims.
In addition to the phone data, CCTV was gathered from locations close to many of the victims’ addresses and this led to the number plate of a suspect car being uncovered.
The vehicle belonged to Warren Roache and was stopped by Sussex Police, for an unrelated matter, in October 2018.
A phone and a sim card were found in his car and this was later found to be connected to several of the fraudulent calls. Messages on the phone also contained the names and addresses of several victims.
In addition to CCTV seized from close to victims’ homes, video footage was also gathered from shops where mobile phone top ups were purchased, and the stolen cards used. Lee was shown on several times purchasing these top ups, or using a victim’s card.
Leacock and Roache were both arrested at their home addresses in March 2019, with no further offences taking place after this date. Lee was detained in August 2019. Following a review of all available evidence, the CPS authorised charges in November 2020.
- Leacock, 34, of Southviews, South Croydon, was sentenced to 27 months for these matters, which will be served concurrently to a five year-sentence he is serving for similar, but unrelated, cases. He was involved in all 47 offences in the conspiracy.
- Roache, 38, of Petersham Drive, Orpington, was sentenced to three years and two months. He was responsible for 37 offences in the conspiracy.
- Lee, 40, of Coventry Road, South Norwood, London, received a 20-week suspended sentence. He was responsible for 10 offences in the conspiracy.
Detective Superintendent Patrick Milford, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: ‘These offenders systematically preyed on the elderly after they specifically identified them as being vulnerable.
‘They caused a huge amount of distress to the victims, who were left feeling deceived and betrayed by people they believed they could trust. Their actions are completely deplorable.
‘I’m pleased that we were able to unravel the pattern of their criminality and secure justice for the victims. A custodial term is the only acceptable outcome and I am pleased they are now unable to target innocent members of the public
‘Although the victims of this particular case were elderly, these types of crime can impact anyone and knowing the tactics offenders like these men use can help you avoid losing money.
‘Remember that your bank, or the police, will never call and ask you for your full pin or full banking password, nor will they ask you to withdraw money and hand it over to a courier. The Police will also never ask you to lie to your bank.
‘If you are unsure whether a call is genuine, ring them back using a trusted number on a different line to the one you were cold called on. If this option is not available, wait 10 minutes for your line to clear and ring a family member or friend to ensure that it has been cleared, as fraudsters have been known to keep a line open.’