Fraud gang stole 3,000 identities from builders

Grant Prior 11 years ago

Four members of a Southampton-based organised crime gang have been jailed after stealing thousands of identities from construction workers in a bid to swindle £2m of Income Tax repayments.

The Eastern European quartet submitted false Self Assessment tax repayment claims using stolen and hijacked identities.

The gang stole the identities of people who answered their classified adverts offering the possibility of work, and also created identities based on contact details found in other classified notices.

Those whose identities were hijacked were mainly Polish builders and construction workers.

The victims were looking for work and replied to the fake adverts in a UK-based magazine aimed at Eastern Europeans.

One of the gang had been a tax agent and a number of workers who turned to him for advice had their identities hijacked.

Zoe Ellerbeck, HMRC Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, said: “This was a blatant, highly-organised attack to defraud the UK tax system of vast sums of money using the stolen identities of unsuspecting people.

“During our four-year investigation we discovered the gang hijacked at least 3,000 different identities in an attempt to claim money they weren’t entitled to.

“HMRC officers, working closely with local police forces, were able to stop over £1.3 million claimed by the fraudsters being paid out.”

After an identity was chosen, the fraudsters would fly friends and acquaintances from Lithuania into the UK to open bank accounts and create taxpayer identities in hijacked names.

The gang attempted to claim at least £2m from HMRC, but over £1.3m was withheld when officers checking repayment claims became suspicious.

The HMRC investigation began after Dorset Police uncovered an apparent fraud factory in Bournemouth, in February 2009.

Besik Zveiba, 41, and Kardo Anderson, 26, were found guilty by jury at Southampton Crown Court on 2 July 2013 of conspiracy to cheat the revenue.

On 26 April 2013 Ruslanas Bobrovas, 37, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat the revenue. Lyubomyr Sytaiylo, 39, pleaded guilty in March 2013 to the conspiracy.

The four men received jail sentences totalling 22½ years.

Upon sentencing, His Honour Judge Peter Henry, said: “This was a large scale conspiracy to cheat the revenue over five years.

“It was not particularly sophisticated, it was nonetheless outrageous. It was straightforward in concept, but needed a great deal of planning.”


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