Pair jailed over 'Boris bike' scam


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The Independent Online

Two fraudsters were jailed today for swindling up to £42,000 from the "Boris bike" scheme.

Nana Boateng and Jose Dias made a string of bogus refund payments from the London cycle hire scheme to seven friends.

The duo, both aged 26, organised the scam while working for Serco, the company operating the bike programme for Transport for London (TfL).

Employed in the firm's customer contact centre in north London, they exploited a system under which those who are wrongly charged by the scheme are refunded the cash.

One of the ways a customer could be refunded was if they were erroneously issued the £300 fine levied for failing to dock their bike properly, Southwark Crown Court in London heard.

In theory, the refunds had to be authorised by TfL, but the fraudsters realised this was not enforced.

After spotting this "weakness", they unlawfully arranged for refunds to be put into the accounts of friends between September and December 2010.

Prosecutor James Norman said the scam "resulted in a potential £42,000 loss to TfL".

Boateng, of Kingsway in Enfield, north London, paid out £17,400 in fraudulent refunds, while Dias, of Chatsworth Road in Hackney, east London, paid out £24,800 over a two-day period.

They admitted one count each of fraud by abuse of position in March.

Boateng was jailed for nine months, including one month for breaching an order for a separate offence, and Dias was sentenced to six months behind bars.

Their co-conspirators, including former Serco employee Devina Joseph-Albert, 22, of Glyn Road in Clapton, east London, admitted money-laundering charges at previous hearings.

The others who benefited from the fake repayments were Devina's brother Darnel Joseph-Albert, 20, of the same address; Zakir Bhad, 24, of Norwich Road in Forest Gate, east London; Samuel Njie, 26, of Chapworth Street in Leyton, east London; mother-of-four Elizabeth Spencer, 36, of Ashenden Road in Clapton; George Hayden, 31, of Kingsway in Enfield; and Sakinah MacAulay, 24, of Hertford Road, in Enfield, who all admitted one charge of money laundering.

Among those who received the highest fraudulent payments were Bhad, who got £20,000; Darnel Joseph-Albert, now a plumber employed by Hackney Council, who was "refunded" £8,100 after being recruited to the scam by his sister; and Hayden, a housemate of Boateng's who was paid £4,700.

Barrister Alexander Williams, for Boateng, said the young man's benefit from the scam was less than £8,000.

"It's a breach of trust but he was not in a managerial, official role," he told the court, adding that the crime had been "opportunistic".

Boateng, who later worked in the Enfield branch of Paul Simon furniture store, sent about half the money he gained to his sick aunt in Ghana, his lawyer said.

Barrister David Miller, for Dias, said the fraudster was looking after his younger siblings, telling the court: "He says he felt temptation at a time when money was tight, given the role he had assumed after his parents had gone back to where they had come from."

Passing sentence, Judge Alistair McCreath told Boateng: "I recognise that although you were in a position of trust you were not in a high managerial position but working in a fairly lowly, though important, position."

He told Dias: "I accept you were not in a high position of trust also, I accept that the fraudulent activity you carried out lasted for two days and no more than that."

He said the men's co-conspirators were "not in the same serious position".

He told them: "It was not you who committed the underlying offences but all of you made it possible for those offences to be carried out."

Devina Joseph-Albert was sentenced to nine weeks' imprisonment suspended for 12 months and ordered to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work; Darnel Joseph-Albert was given a 12-month community order and told he must complete 80 hours of unpaid work; Bhad was handed an 18-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months, plus a supervisional requirement and a three-month curfew between 7pm and 7am; Hayden was handed a 13-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months, plus a supervisional requirement, a programme requirement and an order to do 100 hours of unpaid work; and Njie, Spencer and MacAulay were given a 12-month community order and told to do 90 hours of unpaid work each.

Since the London cycle hire scheme was launched by the capital's mayor, Boris Johnson, in July 2010 the bikes have been hired millions of times.

There are more than 400 docking stations to pick up or drop off the cycles in central London.