Three men have been jailed over a “sophisticated” scam to defraud mobile phone firm Vodafone out of £165,000.
Andrew Harrison, Stephen Garbutt, and Carl Westmoreland were jailed over the plot which saw customers of the company being tricked into giving personal details and passwords to their accounts.
The details were then used to order new phones from the Middle East and intercept them before they were delivered to customers’ homes.
The men were arrested following a detailed investigation after police raided a unit on Bridge Road, Beeston, which used as a base to carry out the fraud. All three men pleaded guilty at Leeds Crown Court yesterday to conspiracy to commit fraud.
Harrison, 45, of The Drive, Kippax, described as the leader of the con, was jailed for 28 months. Westmoreland, 35, of North Avenue, Castleford, described as a “willing lieutenant”, received a 20-month sentence. Garbutt, 51, of Wesley Street, Beeston, described as an “office-based assistant”, was jailed for 10 months.
Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, said 37 customer accounts were illegally accessed and used to order 327 handsets, worth £138,800. Some of the stolen phones were then used to make calls totalling £26,166.
The court heard the men managed to get hold of the phones by loitering outside customers’ homes and intercepting delivery by pretending to be the intended recipients.
Members of the public were also unwittingly involved in the conspiracy after they allowed their homes to be used to take delivery of stolen phones in exchange for small amounts of cash.
Jailing the defendants at yesterday’s hearing, Judge Peter Hunt said: “The conspiracy involved careful planning.
“There was a high degree of professionalism and significant expenditure of time and, perhaps worst of all, the fraudulent use of the identities of a large group of people.”
Stephen Crossley, for Harrison, said it was accepted his client was the “principal player” in the fraud.
Sean Smith, for Westmoreland, described his client as the man who did the “fetching and carrying”.
Jason McAdam, for Garbutt, said he took part in the conspiracy for just £500 as he was facing bankruptcy after being released from prison.
After the hearing, Det Con Melanie Lewis, who led the investigation, said: “This in-depth investigation revealed a sophisticated fraud with Harrison clearly at the heart of it.
“These fraudsters ran up bills of thousands of pounds, in the names of those customers whose accounts were accessed, by ordering high value mobile phone handsets.
“The handsets were used by the fraudsters themselves by using airtime without any regard for anyone who would ultimately have to pay the bill.”