£20m cheque fraud postman jailed

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The Independent Online

A former asylum seeker who masterminded a "staggering" £20 million family-run cheque fraud from his council house was jailed for six-and-a-half years today.

Former postman Dido Mayue-Belezika, 34, hid a criminal past to get his job and then wallow in luxury by intercepting hundreds of cheque books at the sorting office where he worked.

His brother-in-law and "trusted lieutenant", Ishiaba Kasonga, helped by selling them to a 220-strong gang of money launderers across Britain.

Up to £1,200 a time was later harvested from the accounts of unsuspecting bank customers in the "biggest con of its kind" in the country.

Up to £5 million was pilfered from 1,300 "mainly Jewish" residents in the north London area of Golders Green, one of the capital's most affluent districts.

Because of the large number of victims, both they and police initially feared the community was being "targeted because of religion". Fortunately, that concern was "misplaced".

Police believe that nationally the fraud was as high as £20 million, with "thousands" more losers but limited resources prevented a wider investigation.

London's Harrow Crown Court heard Mayue-Belezika's "prolific thievery" and massive breach of trust funded a breathtaking string of largely cash-only spending sprees for both men.

Luxury car showrooms, top-class jewellers and Savile Row shops were "almost like second homes", said police.

In addition, their wrists glittered with £10,000 Rolexes, while wallets invariably bulged with £50 notes.

Salesmen fondly recalled Kasonga handing over wads of cash for bespoke suits costing up to £1,500 a time.

One boasted his name embroidered on the lining.

He also had a love for hand-made shoes. One pair, complete with initials engraved in the sole, cost £1,400.

Several who recalled serving him described him as among their "most valued customers" - so valued that he was personally introduced to top designer Ozwald Boateng at his company's annual Christmas dinner.

Mayue-Belezika's criminal empire finally ended in a series of synchronised raids across the country earlier this year.

Hundreds of officers were involved in Operation Bangor, expensive vehicles were seized and enough luxury goods recovered to fill a shop.

Dozens of people were arrested, but the sheer scale of the inquiry forced police to concentrate on the Golders Green area and let hundreds of other suspects go free.

Mayue-Belezika, a former parking warden, of Malden Crescent, Camden, north London, admitted 12 counts of cheque book theft between April 2004 and April this year, although police believe the scam may have spanned three years.

The married father of four also pleaded guilty to 13 offences of using stolen credit cards and asked for 56 similar charges to be considered.