Fake cash machine swindlers jailed

A trio of conmen nicknamed "the hole-in-the-wall gang" were jailed yesterday for a pounds 120,000 swindle which involved the world's first home- made high street cashpoint machine.

More than 300 customers were fooled by the realistic looking Halifax "card cash" dispenser, which had been carefully built into the front of an equally fictitious mortgage brokers' premises in east London.

None of the victims realised as they vainly tried to withdraw cash that their pin numbers had been secretly recorded to make counterfeit cards later used to plunder their accounts. One woman lost pounds 1,500.

At Southwark Crown Court Judge Robbin Laurie told Stephen Moore, 40, his brother Graham, 31, and their underling, Anthony Hodges, 37, that they had clearly been involved in an "audacious plan for high stakes".

But "over-confidence ... in the perfection" of their plot eventually led to their downfall.

Jailing Stephen Moore for four years, the judge said he was clearly "one of the managers of the conspiracy and at the heart of it". Turning to his brother and jailing him for three years, the judge said there was a "probability" that he, too, was at the heart of the conspiracy. He said Hodges would also be sent to prison for three years.

The whole operation was so carefully crafted that some of the hundreds "enticed" into using the dispenser in Roman Road, Bow, went back numerous times. The cashpoint had been built into the front of a shop posing as "Halifax appointed representative" and offering "mortgages, design mortgages, pensions." The premises were kitted out with the latest in office furniture.,

The scam was revealed when several of the duped card users complained to a genuine Halifax branch that "their other machine" never worked. All those who lost money have been since reimbursed by their banks and building societies.

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