Five defendants each convicted in March 2020 for their part in a fraud conspiracy which targeted elderly and vulnerable consumers, have had their assets stripped from them as the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 proceedings against them concluded.
Imran Shan, Nasar Munir, Mohammed Mansha Abbas, Zulfqar Abbas and Mohammed Vaqaas Abbas received sentences totalling almost 30 years for their cynical targeting of vulnerable consumers across West Yorkshire for unnecessary, substandard and overpriced security and home improvement work.
Confiscation orders totalling £657,092.87 have been made against the group at Leeds Crown Court. As part of the confiscation orders a total of £95,314.65 was ordered to be paid to their victims as compensation, which represents a return of the whole of the money they lost plus an additional sum to reflect inflation since the offences were committed.
West Yorkshire Trading Standards first began an investigation into the activities of Cleckheaton based Bespoke Home Security Ltd and Bespoke Home Improvements Group Ltd in early 2015 following a number of complaints regarding their selling practices. The defendants used a number of companies to hide their activities from enforcement agencies and allow them to operate without detection. Mohammed Mansha Abbas was already a banned director but was found to hold a controlling interest in both companies.
Victims were cold-called by staff with a series of dishonest scripts where they used fear tactics to encourage consumers to believe there was a need to install their products. Once they agreed to a quote, consumers were visited, often on the same day.
The 5 defendants each carried out the role of salesman. They would stay in the victim’s home for several hours and use high-pressure selling tactics to encourage victims to take out a contract there and then for work that was often over-priced or unnecessary. In several cases the victims believed they were receiving a government grant towards the price of the work but the grant did not exist and was merely a tactic used to encourage sales. In some cases the defendants would take the victim to the bank to secure deposits.
The defendants also used a business associate to submit fraudulent online loans for consumers without their knowledge using false income details and email addresses which they had created and had access to. Some consumers had not even had any work done by the companies. The companies received the loan funds direct and the victim was then saddled with an ongoing financial commitment.
In March 2017 whilst the Trading Standards investigation was ongoing, West Yorkshire Police began investigating a number of reports of two men posing as officials from a solar panel company who had approached victims on the pretext of offering a refund but instead used a chip and pin machine to withdraw considerable sums from the victims’ bank accounts. Police later arrested Nasar Munir and Mohammed Mansha Abbas. They also went on to use the victim’s personal details to create online banking accounts in their names where they then applied for loans all unbeknown to the victims who were then paying these back in monthly instalments. The suspects even took images of the victims’ bank cards on their phones without the consent or knowledge of the victims. A 6th defendant, Roman Le, who sourced the chip & pin machine used in the solar panel fraud was also convicted of Money Laundering.
An I-phone seized from Munir during the investigation contained shocking evidence of the complete disdain the defendants held for their victims, who they mocked in a series of Whatsapp messages, videos and images shared between them.
A total of 28 predominantly elderly and vulnerable victims were identified in the Trading Standards investigation. The defendants deliberately targeted pensioners by buying call-data for homeowners over 60. They also repeatedly targeted those customers with whom they’d had success in the past.
The full confiscation and compensation award details are :
Mohammed Mansha ABBAS of Leeds Old Road, Heckmondwike was found to have benefited from his offending by £759.081.68. He was ordered to pay a confiscation order in the sum of £187,580.40.
Mohammed Zulfqar Abbas of Greenfields, Heckmondwike was found to have benefited from his offending by £1,136,700.12. He was made the subject of a confiscation order in the sum of £216,941.04. £7,494.78 of this will be paid as compensation to victims.
Mohammed Vaqaas Abbas of Greenfields, Heckmondwike was found to have benefited from his offending by £201,311.20 and he was ordered to pay a confiscation order in the sum of £68,009.28.
Nasar MUNIR of Cottingley Rd, Bradford was found to have benefited from his offending by £1,584,108.97 and ordered to pay a confiscation order in the sum of £118,529.05. £45,000.00 of this money is to be paid as compensation to victims.
Imran Shan of Carr Manor Road, Leeds was made the subject of a confiscation order in January 2022 of £66,033.10. £42,819.87 of this money is to be paid as compensation to victims.
The confiscation orders represent the extent of assets currently held by the defendants. As this is less than the assessed benefit from crime, if any of the defendants come into further assets in the future, further confiscation orders can be applied for.
This is another conviction secured by the West Yorkshire Financial Exploitation and Abuse Team (WYFEAT) at West Yorkshire Trading Standards. Confiscation proceedings in this case were undertaken on behalf of WYFEAT by the Yorkshire & Humber Regional Economic Crime Unit (YH RECU).
Linda Davis, Trading Standards Manager and Head of the WYFEAT Task Force said of the case: “Trading Standards and the Regional Economic Crime Unit have worked tirelessly on this case in order to bring the offenders to justice and recover the proceeds of their crimes. We hope the orders obtained in this case will bring some comfort to their many vulnerable victims. We are committed to protecting our residents from fraud and financial abuse and fully support the action taken by WYFEAT and YH RECU.”
‘‘This has been a long and complex investigation and both teams have been tenacious and dedicated in bringing these defendants to justice and recovering the proceeds of their crimes with the aim of returning those funds to their many victims. I hope the orders made in this case send a message out that crime doesn’t pay. We will continue to hunt down and prosecute anyone who targets vulnerable citizens in this way and recover their ill-gotten gains for the benefit of their victims. If you have a concern about someone vulnerable who you believe may be a victim of financial abuse or fraud, please contact us via the Citizens Advice Consumer Helpline on 0808 223 1133.”
Mrs. Ramona Senior, head of the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Economic Crime Unit said; “This was a complex financial investigation featuring six defendants convicted for their parts in frauds against the elderly and vulnerable in our communities. We welcome these confiscation orders and the fact that all of the many victims of these defendants will now receive compensation, uplifted to reflect inflation. Working in close partnership with West Yorkshire Trading Standards, fraudsters such as these can expect to lose their assets and have to pay back any illegally-gained funds to those they defrauded.”