Britian's first internet "bank robbers" were jailed for defrauding two online financial institutions of more than £130,000.
The team of fraudsters allegedly led by a former police officer who has fled to Spain used fictitious names and details to obtain credit cards from the internet banks Cahoot, which is part of Abbey National, and Egg, owned by Prudential.
Five men and a woman were arrested in August last year after a six-month National Crime Squad (NCS) investigation, codenamed Skoda, first reported by The Independent.
Detectives found the gang had an elaborate system in which they stole the names and financial records of innocent people and used them to set up accounts with internet banks. In all, 111 applications were made to six banks, of which 23 were accepted. Credit cards with limits ranging from £500 to £15,000 were issued.
The case highlights concerns about the security of transactions over the internet. Some of the six internet banks involved have now tightened their vetting procedures.
Aylesbury Crown Court was told that Roy Graham, a former policeman with the Hertfordshire force, is accused of starting the scam with Alan Ross, 37, a letting agent from Blisworth, Northamptonshire.
As the fraud developed, Lisa Ramsey, 23, of Stony Stratford, Buckinghamshire, and Christian Palmer, 28, an estate agent from Castlethorpe, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, joined the team. Palmer began using empty properties he was selling as addresses on applications using names such as Messrs Black, Brown and Green.
While on bail, Mr Graham, who is in his 30s and resigned from the police because of ill health, left for Majorca with his wife, Mary. A warrant for the extradition of Mr Graham, who is also wanted on another matter, has been issued.
Judge Christopher Tyrer, who sentenced five of the team to a total of eight years for their roles in defrauding financial institutions, said that the scam was a "thoroughly dishonest, premeditated, sophisticated and sustained conspiracy".
Ross, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing, was sentenced to 30 months. Palmer and Ramsey were found guilty and were sentenced to two years and 15 months respectively.
Two other men convicted for their participation were Jonathan Ellis, aged 28, of Milton Keynes, who was sentenced to 12 months, and Richard Henderson, 25, also of Milton Keynes, who had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and was sentenced to 60 hours' community service.
Detective Inspector Michael Ryan, of the NCS, said: "To facilitate their crimes they used a combination of old methods with the new advantages the internet has to offer."
Detective Sergeant Mick Randall, who led the inquiry, said: "The banks involved have worked closely with the National Crime Squad to bring this to a successful conclusion."
A spokesman for Egg said: "We are pleased at the successful outcome. Fraud continues to remain an important focus for us."Reuse content