Some members of a Nigerian crime syndicate have been convicted and await sentencing in the UK for using the identities of MPs, judges and police officers in a £10million scam. Emmanuel Odeyemi, Gumbs and Adedamole Oyebode have already pleaded guilty and will be sentenced with Sanni at the Old Bailey on 6 July. Adedamola Oyebode and Oluwatobe Emmanuel Odeyemi are alleged to have run the scheme together with Oluwagbenga Stephen Odeyemi and Kayode Sanni. Jurors were told that another two of the gang, Stephen Odeyemi and his wife Oluwatumininu Banjo, 40, have fled to Nigeria and are wanted abroad. The crew stole personal details from the Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC), to make fraudulent claims over a four-year period. The gang managed to get away with nearly £2,500,000 before staff at Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs spotted the ‘extraordinarily high rate’ of claims being made by civil servants. If the scam had not been stopped it could have reaped more than £10,260,525.
Member lists were ‘stolen to order’ from CSSC and used to place orders for tax credit starter packs used in fraudulent claims over a four year period. CSSC events manager Adedamola Oyebode, 30, stole membership lists and passed them on to her brothers-in-law Oluwatobe Emmanuel Odeyemi, 34, and Oluwagbenga Stephen Odeyemi, 39, who ran the fraud with Kayode Sanni, 38.
Sanni, an illegal immigrant, denied being involved in the fraud and told Old Bailey jurors ‘my conscience is clear’ as he stood trial alone. But he was convicted of one count of conspiracy to become knowingly concerned in a fraudulent act between 10 March 2009 and 11 June 2013.
Judge Michael Topolski QC remanded him in custody and said: ‘I’m quite satisfied at this stage that there is a significant risk that if he were released on bail he would fail to attend. In my judgement the situation has changed drastically. He chose to contest this matter against what I considered to be overwhelming evidence. His incentive to stay in this country has now diminished.’
Prosecutor Allison Hunter QC said: ‘These defendants went to exceptionally complex and sophisticated lengths in their orchestration of this fraud.
‘They themselves operate under a number of fluid pseudonyms and false identities, operate a multiplicity of email address, have access to a number of mobile phone numbers and have spread the conduct of this fraud over computers and electronic storage devices sufficient to stock a small warehouse.’
Ms Hunter said the investigators began by identifying one of the multiple false tax credit claimants as Chantelle Gumbs, who has admitted her part in the scam. The source of the stolen identity was traced to the CSSC in Chadwick Street, Westminster, where six staff had password protected access to members’ details.
Adedamole Oyebode, who worked for the CSSC between August 2008 and August 2010, has since admitted supplying lists of members and their details in return for payment. She also made calls to the tax credit helpline to obtain application packs.
Further investigation revealed the fraudsters had used the details to create false identities, buy online insurance and open false bank accounts to receive the cash. The profits of the scam were then transferred out into either their own accounts or through Western Union facilities set up by Sanni and Emmanuel Odeyemi.
Ms Hunter said:
‘These individuals conspired together to obtain in excess of £10,260,525.33 in fraudulent tax credits using the identities of 10,300 police officers, MPs, members of the judiciary, and civil servants for example, whose personal data and information was stolen from the Civil Service Sports Council.The CSSC provides leisure events and activities together with sporting and fitness facilities to approximately 120,000 Public Sector employees or pensioners, including civil servants, local government employees, the NHS, teachers, police officers, fire fighters and HM Armed Forces personnel.’
Sanni, from Leeds, denied but conspiracy to become knowingly concerned in a fraudulent act – but was convicted of the crime.
Oluwatumininu Banjo, also from Dagenham, and Emmanuel Odeyemi, from Gravesend, Kent, are believed to be on the run in Nigeria.
Simon York, Director of Fraud Investigation Service at HMRC, said:
‘We have dismantled an organised criminal attack on the tax credits system. HMRC officers and our counter-fraud checks identified the attack, and our investigators uncovered those behind the fraud, preventing £8 million of false claims being paid to the criminals. A further £2.4 million in tax credits claimed by the fraudsters was paid before we could stop the crime group and prevent further fraud. Tax Credits are paid to some of the most vulnerable people in our society. We have to strike a balance between making it easy for people to receive what is due, and having procedures in place to identify and stop fraudulent claims. Our investigation was made more difficult as the criminals had hijacked real identity details to make the fraudulent claims.’
Prosecutors have dropped charges against Emmanuel’s wife Oluwatosin Oyebode.