Prison for hard men in cash card fraud

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The Independent Online
It was to have been one of the biggest crimes in history. The great hole-in-the-wall swindle aimed to turn that icon of modern convenience banking, the cash dispenser, into the instrument that brought British banks to their knees.

John "Little Legs" Lloyd, an underworld hardman, and his partner Kenneth Noye, wanted for the M25 road-rage murder, hand-picked a team of criminals to pull off an pounds 800m fraud.

Lloyd was jailed for five years at London's Southwark Crown Court yesterday after admitting the conspiracy, and his son-in-law Stephen Seton, 42, was also jailed for four years; Graham Moore, 32, and Paul Kidd, 36 were both jailed for five years, and Moore's brother Stephen, 41, for three years.

John Maguire, 36, was sent to prison for two years and Billy Haward, 55, was given a suspended two-year prison sentence and fined pounds 50,000.

The gang was thwarted by an unlikely crime-busting team, made up of a softly-spoken prison chaplain and a computer wizard who once tried to burn his wife and child to death.

The swindlers' plan had been to use the help of corrupt British Telecom technicians to tap into the telephone lines which link cash dispensers tobank computers. The taps would have given the gang access to confidential information about tens of thousands of accounts which was to be downloaded onto a computer. The data would have been decrypted and transferred to 140,000 plastic bogus cash cards.

Lloyd, 58, of West Kingsdown, Kent, and Noye, had established a worldwide network of criminals to use the cards to carry out fraud on a global scale.

"Their expectations were to raise hundreds of millions of pounds," said Ann Curnow, QC, for the prosecution. "But the sky, I think, was the limit".

Lloyd was "ostensibly" employed as manager of a van- and car-hire business at Meopham, Kent, part-owned by Kidd, which was the front for the plot.

Maguire, of Mottingham, Kent, made a succession of visits to BT exchanges during months of planning and test runs. Haward, of Yalding, Kent, offered his home as a safe house.

The gang's mistake was to recruit Martin Grant, 37, as its unwilling computer expert. Serving a 16-year sentence for trying to burn his wife and child to death, Grant - once described by a judge as "evil" - was studying for a degree in electronic communications and digital and logic design at Blantyre House open prison in Kent.

Fellow prisoners, acting for Noye and his associates, persuaded Grant to take a job at Kidd's garage as part of his parole resettlement programme.

On his first visit, he was introduced to Noye, who was convicted for the Brink's Mat robbery in 1983. Lloyd's common-law wife, Jean Savage, was also jailed for her part in the famous gold bullion raid.

At first Grant suspected nothing, believing he was employed to computerise the garage's customer operations. Then he was informed of his real task. "He was told he would get a full share and ...there was a veiled threat that his mother could be sent some flowers," said Miss Curnow.

Grant first tried to sabotage the operation by corrupting a computer disk. Then he called Crimestoppers and various police stations. Eventually he confided in Blantyre's prison chaplain and one-time police officer, the Rev John Bourne. The prison governor was alerted and police were contacted.

Surveillance operations were set up as the gang invested an estimated pounds 100,000 in an impressive array of computer equipment and other material. The gang moved to Haward's home, which had electrically-operated gates, guard dogs, and surveillance cameras.

When dozens of officers raided the house in July 1995, they seized 60,000 plastic cards and details of tens of thousands of personal bank account holders. Lloyd was caught red-handed encoding cash-dispenser cards.

Grant is now living in hiding. Police believe a pounds 100,000 contract has been taken out on his life.