A man from Leeds who helped mastermind what is thought to have been the country’s biggest ever cheque scam has been jailed.
Charles Nyongo, of Gabriel Court, Hunslet, was one of the ringleaders of a “ruthlessly indiscriminate” criminal gang who stole and fraudulently manufactured millions of pounds worth of bank cheques.
They intercepted completed cheques in the post, which they then altered, or photographed blank ones using smartphones to capture legitimate details which they used to create fake cheques.
The cheques would then be cashed through ‘mule’ bank accounts – held by innocent members of the public including students and vulnerable people.
About £6.5 million worth of stolen and fake cheques were seized in police raids following an investigation by the Dedicated Cheque and Plastic Crime Unit (DCPCU).
The gang’s victims included hospices, schools, golf clubs and the elderly.
Nyongo, 43, and fellow ringleader Onais Hove, also 43, of Hallowdene in Barnsley, both received nine-year prison sentences at Bradford Crown Court.
Det Chief Insp Perry Stokes, head of the DCPCU, said: “We have dismantled a highly organised and professional fraud gang – one of the largest of its kind ever seen in the UK.
“As the ringleaders, Hove and Nyongo were ruthlessly indiscriminate in selecting their victims. Their knowledge of the bank cheque system was considerable, and our investigation revealed a series of fraud factories across the country.
“We are delighted to have brought these criminals to justice and to have removed the threat they posed to British banks and their customers.”
The DCPCU investigation, which began in April 2012, included officers from eight police forces across the country carrying out a number of coordinated raids.
During the property searches, officers seized almost 3000 stolen or fake cheques – the most ever recorded by the banking industry, along with the specialist ink and paper used in their manufacture.
Police also uncovered computers with cheque templates and ready-made identity kits for ‘mules’ to open false bank accounts.
Nyongo and Hove both denied conspiring to defraud UK banks and possessing articles for use in fraud.
But a jury found both men guilty of all charges.