A home buyer has been tricked into depositing £ 55,000 for his new home after hackers embezzled the funds into the account of a money launderer.
The scammers carried out the scam by accessing the victim’s attorney’s email account and sending him a fake message telling him where to send the payment.
Thinking he was complying with the lawyer’s request, he unwittingly poured the money into the bank account of Surjan Roopra, 29, who wasted no time spending thousands of pounds at John Lewis, Apple, Next, Debenhams, ASOS, and sent money. abroad.
Leicester Crown Court has learned that failed businessman Roopra of Darien Way, Braunstone, Leicester was recruited to launder money by an associate of someone he met in a temple.
Roopra pleaded guilty to converting £ 55,000 of criminal property between May 4-8, 2018.
Neil Bannister, prosecuting, said the home buyer initially successfully sent a booking fee of £ 15,000 to his online transport agent.
Expecting to exchange contracts on May 4 last year, the victim received an email claiming to be from his lawyer asking him to send the £ 55,000 deposit to another account number.
He first sent £ 5,000 “as a test”, which received an acknowledgment and then a payment of £ 50,000.
The next day, he spoke to the lawyer, who said no payment had been received and that she knew nothing about their alleged email exchanges regarding a change of bank account.
Mr Bannister said: “There were concerns at (the law firm) that their emails had been hacked and information had been obtained to persuade their client to part with £ 55,000.
“The lawyer asked the client to forward the emails to him, so they could be verified, but when he tried to forward them, they simply disappeared from his inbox – automatically deleted.
“The police were then contacted.”
It was found that the missing money had been paid into the defendant’s furniture business account in Leicester.
A number of transactions were made from there – including Roopra making payments for debit and credit card spending and other accounts as well as well-known outlets.
Mr Bannister said £ 22,818 was used for the benefit of Roopra, of which £ 13,350 was withdrawn in cash.
There was still £ 9,468 in his account which was recovered.
The victim still has around £ 45,000 in his pocket.
The prosecutor said: “Some payments from the accused’s account went to overseas accounts, some to India and there was a transaction with Nigeria.
“The Crown is of the view that the defendant played a role in what appears to be an almost global configuration in which lawyers have been targeted and emails hacked.
“One might suggest that the accused was nothing more than a mule of money, but given the amount that was withheld for his own purposes, it is clear that he was much more involved.”
IMPACT OF VICTIMS
In a personal impact statement, the complainant said, “It was a lot of money to lose.
“I feel emotionally drained, not only from the loss of money, but being left in limbo for weeks to see if the bank would be able to get the money back – no one contacted me.
“It had a big impact on the family.
“We had to move during the summer holidays so that the children could be installed at school at the start of the next school year.
“We had to find another £ 55,000, borrowing money from parents to cover the shortfall.
“We are lucky that our family was able to help or we could not have bought the house.”
The victim said he felt “a lot of anger” towards the perpetrators and added: “I don’t understand how they could have done this.
“It caused arguments between me and my partner, not least because it’s a lot of money to lose.
“Buying a home is stressful enough without it happening.”
He said he now finds it difficult to trust people.
The victim said: “I didn’t know who to turn to when I found out it was a scam and the whole reporting process was very stressful.”
WHAT DID THE JUDGE SAID?
Judge Robert Brown said: “This is classic money laundering and the accused played a role in a sophisticated scheme.”
In handing down his sentence, he said: “A lawyer’s email account was hacked and those involved were contacting the client about a property purchase, which resulted in the money being embezzled on your account. .
“You say you’ve been used by the group, used by bigger players than you.
“You were part of this group and there are others who also profited from this fraud.
“But you, according to your own version of events, were going to take 25% of the profit.
“It would have required a lot of planning.
“You are of good character.
“I was told that you weren’t able to run your business successfully, which is why you became involved in this fraud – and you have now returned to working in a factory.”
Luc Chignell, mitigating, said: “It all happened because of debts with his legitimate furniture company, which was in a difficult financial situation.
“Most of the money went to his business to pay his bills.
“He had gone to the temple and told another person about his struggles, and that person said he knew a way to get money.
“He didn’t know the level of detailed and complex computer programming behind it; he was simply a furniture salesman.
“He only had contact with a few people, he was not involved in any planning and played a small role in a much larger operation.
“His inability to run his own business got him the worst and he now works shifts in a factory.
“He has held an important role at the temple, where he has been a regular since 2008.”
Mr Chignell said a reference from the temple spoke well of the service he had rendered to the Sikh community.
He said, “He tried to do what he could to rectify it.
“He knows he has shamed his family.”
WHAT WAS THE SENTENCE?
Roopra was jailed for 18 months.
He now faces a proceeds of crime hearing, when the court may confiscate any assets he may have.