Fraud Squad

Thursday, 5 April 2012, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

Fraud Squad lifts the lid on the organised crime gangs making millions from cash machine crime. 

With exclusive access to The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit, Fraud Squad shows how the gangs use a vast array of sophisticated equipment to steal customers’ bank account details. Secret cameras record pin numbers and skimmers copy account details from the magnetic strip on the bank card. Some gangs even design whole false ATM fascias. 

Head of The Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit DCI Paul Barnard says: “The criminals constantly try and evolve their technology to beat the technology the banks put in place. It’s a constant battle to try and work out where the criminal is going next” 

One nationality has a monopoly on the trade, the equipment and the rewards. In the first three months of 2011, Detectives from the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime unit identified 120 Romanians linked ATM crime. 

DCI Paul Barnard says: “The fact is 92 percent of all ATM fraud we see in this country is committed by Romanian nationals. Very, very tight communities, very tight gangs” 

The crime is highly lucrative earning the gangs well over £2 million a month and the competition is fierce. 

DC Dave Cass says: “We’ve seen teams of Eastern Europeans at a machine and another team waiting to go on it, that’s how busy they were doing it, one team would come off and another team would come on.” 

Fraud Squad trails detectives as they raid a house in Chigwell, Essex to arrest 22 year old Romanian Maxim Catana and fellow gang members Nikolajs Delvers and Daniel Anghell. Inside the house detectives discover what they describe as “a working ATM factory”. The gang had stolen bank account details for more than 4,000 British victims, potentially pooling them over £2 million. 

Paperwork reveals they had targeted ATMs across The south coast of England with military precision. Detectives only recover £2,000 in cash from the house, as the Romanian gangs use an intricate smuggling network to quickly move the millions they are making. 

DCI Paul Barnard reveals: “More and more they’re turning to the cash going out in bulk in vehicles, being carried by mules who take the money to their contacts in Romania.” 

DCS Steve Head, Head of the Economic Crime Directorate for The City of London Police, explains how the crime fuels a luxurious lifestyle for Gang bosses in Romania: “We can see quite clearly what they are doing with the money back in Romania; they are spending it on a lavish lifestyle, flash cars, flash houses. What sits behind it all is the greed, the greed of the people who are organising it, the greed of the professionals along the way who are enabling it and the greed of those people who are actually creating the technology to enable systems to be overcome, sheer criminal greed.” 

Fraud Squad films detectives as they dramatically arrest two young men who are using the Romanian gangs’ latest weapon, the cash trap. 

DS Tom Finnegan explains how the cash trap works: “It will go across the front of an ATM where the money is dispensed. The money will come out and stick to this device. They will go from one ATM to another to another…it is very lucrative for what they are doing.” 

The two arrested men, Nela Bura and Viorel Strango live in modest accommodation, hold down 9-5 jobs and show little signs of enjoying the fruits of their criminal labour. 

DCS Steve Head explains “It is important that we understand that those people are coming from very poor backgrounds often, they are being shipped over here as just another product in some ways in order to do the bidding of their criminal masters.” 

The documentary also examines the lucrative criminal trade of buying and selling stolen British bank details online and transferring them onto counterfeit cards. Detectives are filmed intercepting a parcel from Malaysia containing 2,000 high quality counterfeit credit cards. 

DCI Paul Barnard highlights the scale of the problem “It’s a huge market, it’s worth millions and millions of pounds. We’ve seen a number of websites where credit card details are sold between criminal groups. You obtain the details, you get the cards in, but then the clever bit is putting on your details from your card. We’re seeing a substantial number of cards imported from the Far East. They look spectacularly genuine, and we can’t tell the difference sometimes.” 

Fraud Squad is part of a returning documentary series made by Wild Pictures, the producers of acclaimed ITV 1 series Strangeways, Smugglers and Wormwood Scrubs. The programme is produced and directed by Will West. Tom Anstiss is the Series Producer and The Executive Producer is Paul Hamann. 

Series Producer Tom Anstiss says “ATM machines are an integral part of our daily life, like mobile phones and the internet. Many of us will know friends or family who have had their bank account details stolen, but few of us understand how it is done. The Romanian gangs are incredibly ingenious and sophisticated not only in the technology they use but in the way they operate. They are aware of police surveillance and go to extraordinary lengths to live and work under the radar. The gangs are almost Fagin like in their structure. Young Romanian men are sent to Britain tasked with stealing as many bank details as possible. Few of them see the financial rewards. They live a very basic existence in Britain. The vast majority of the money goes back to Romania.”

Friday, 26 August 2011, 9:00PM – 10:00PM

Fraud Squad – a new documentary series on ITV1- shadows Detectives as they investigate one of the biggest share frauds in Britain. The hunt for the Nigerian ringleader and his gang takes detectives across the playgrounds of Europe. 

Will they recover the £20 million stolen from British victims before the gang spend it on their lavish lifestyles? 

With unique access over two years, Fraud Squad shows the challenges British police face in dismantling a global criminal network and sheds light on the devastating impact fraud has on the British victims. 

Fraud is the new goldmine for organised crime. 3.2 million people in Britain have become victims to an ever growing number of mass marketing scams. The gangs’ most lucrative enterprise is Boiler Room fraud. People are conned into buying worthless shares in fictitious companies. Some victims lose their homes, others have committed suicide. 

The City of London Police Economic Crime Department has identified 1,200 Boiler Rooms making criminal gangs more than £300 million a year. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head warns: “They will bleed people dry, they will keep on pressurizing them until they have got absolutely everything they can. There are tens of thousands of victims of this kind of crime out there in the UK.” 

The Gangs run their operations from Spain, cold calling from anonymous offices, using high pressure sales techniques and intimidation. 

Detective Inspector James Clancy explains how they target their victims: “They steal share lists from companies, and they just go through the list and see if they can get people to buy. The shares are of no value, and then the funds are just gone. In the simplest form it is just straight forward theft.” 

The gangs mirror international corporations using slick websites, glossy brochures and mass market emails to convince investors their product is real. It lures in thousands of victims a year, hitting every strata of British society. Judges, accountants and even former policemen have been conned 

With unique access to The City of London Police, ‘Fraud Squad’ follows the 18 month investigation into 30 year old George Abrue and his criminal associates. Abrue’s operation is truly global. He has numerous false identities, has laundered his cash with the help of corrupt bankers and has criminals working for him across Europe. His fraud fuels his lavish lifestyle. 

Detective Inspector James Clancy says “He’s driving Maserati’s and Ferrari’s. He’s got a £4 million house in Sweden. He has got a property portfolio in Spain. I can see millions of pounds moving through his accounts’. 

The most vulnerable are Abrue’s prime targets. Ninety one year old John Learmonth lost over £100,000 to Abrue’s Gang. John’s savings were there to help pay for the care of his disabled wife. 

John Learmonth says: “No human being should be allowed to inflict this on somebody else. They’re despicable. They out there to make money out of people at any price or at any discomfort to the other person.” 

Detective Chief Inspector David Clark states “It’s callous, It’s calculated. They hide behind a telephone call, a website and very rare do they ever come out and actually meet their victims” 

Criminal Gangs share the lists of people they have conned. It leads to repeat victimization. Detectives are present when victim John Learmonth receives a phone call and menacing demand from another Boiler Room. 

“This has given me a shock. I haven’t got the same confidence as I had. I have discussed it very little with my wife. I don’t want her worried and bothered about it. Whether we will get our money back or a small portion of it, I don’t know?” (John Learmonth). 

For Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head it’s a familiar picture: “Once you have been identified as a victim you will find that your details are being traded like another commodity. “ 

Sheila Wright Hogeland lost hundreds of thousands of pounds to a Boiler Room. 

She says: “I have lost virtually everything I had, and virtually everything my mother had, it’s all gone. I can’t pay any bills, I’m going to lose my home, I have been here for twenty years. They have taken our livelihood. 

“I feel guilty I feel ashamed that I was taken in. I’m not an unintelligent person. I said to the police I acted completely out of character in doing this. But they said every single victim has said that, and that’s a reflection not so much on the victims but on the perpetrators, that they are so cunning. The people who perpetrate this are evil, they are cowardly. I think they must be sociopaths, they obviously don’t care about the consequences for anybody.” 

Detectives discover Abrue built his criminal network around a group of close friends he met in Northumbria. His wife Sarah Robson launders the victim’s money and is addicted to the high life of Champagne, Louis Vuitton and 5 star holidays. The best man at Abrue’s wedding Sam Hamid and his friends run the Boiler Rooms from Spain and Majorca. 

Fraud Squad trails detectives as they launch simultaneous raids across Europe to arrest and dismantle Abrue’s criminal enterprise. As the gang members are brought into custody, the ringleader manages to slip through the net. 

Detectives devise a cunning trap to entice Abrue out of hiding. They secretly use his wife’s mobile phone to text him and lure him to Copenhagen airport for arrest. 

DCI David Clark says “Sometimes to catch a deviant you have got to be a deviant” 

Computers and mobile phones seized from the gang members provide vital clues to the fraud. The gang’s vanity has been their undoing. Cataloguing the trappings of their wealth they’ve taken pictures of their Ferrari’s, designer clothes and expensive jewellery. 

DCI David Clark says:“They are taken over by Boiler rooms and they are almost brainwashed by the money they can earn. It is the greed of money that drives the crime and that takes over all of their conscientiousness about how they actually hurt the victim and the tragedies they are causing in the UK.” 

In Spain, Detectives try to recover the stolen money for the victims. But assets were not a priority for the gang, lifestyle was. Ringleader Abrue spent £100,000 in just one weekend flying friends from around the world to his birthday party. 

The detectives have the tough job of telling the victims where all their money has gone.

Detective Inspector Dave Manley explains “For them it is over, it is finished and they will just live in poverty. A lot of them won’t work again because they are all retired, so they don’t have the ability to build up another nest egg, another lot of life’s saving, buy another property. So each day when they wake up it will be one of the things they realize because they’ll lives have changed forever” 

Fraud Squad sheds light on how British organised crime has gone international. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Head says: “Global boundaries have almost no meaning for criminal networks. There was a sense amongst these people that once they were outside the UK they were untouchable” 

Fraud Squad is a two part series by Wild Pictures, makers of the acclaimed Strangeways, Smugglers and Wormwood Scrubs. 

It is Directed and Series Produced by Tom Anstiss. The Executive producer is Paul Hamann. 

Producer/Director Tom Anstiss says “Fraud is wrongly viewed by some as a white-collar gentleman’s crime, which can be seen as victimless. However it is one of the fastest growing crimes in Britain and has a devastating impact on thousands of people. Many victims suffer in silence. The stigma of being defrauded means they are too ashamed to tell their family and friends.” 

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