Fraudsters who tried to cheat their way to easy money – but lies were exposed

These con artists found themselves in the dock after they tried to pocket cash by cheating others.

They have all been involved in fraud – some of them were in trusted positions when they carried out their crimes and have been locked up for their antics or are facing a spell behind bars.

Here we have rounded-up a number of court cases covered by ChronicleLive that show how offenders have tried to cheat others out of cash.

They include a team of fraudsters who, with the help of a bank insider, fleeced businesses in Newcastle and Gateshead, and a cruel gang who conned an elderly man twice.

In another case, a trusted worker pocketed more than £28,000 by fraudulently claiming expenses from his employer.

Team of conmen including bank insider fleeced businesses out of £90,000

Bilal Abbas
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

A bank inside man provided customer account details to a team of conmen who fraudulently obtained thousands of pounds of goods – including a jet ski, luxury watches, expensive jewellery and a cat suit.

Bilal Abbas betrayed his position of trust at Santander by passing on details of a series of customers to Umair Memon for him and Jordan Hamilton-Thomas to use as part of a sustained scam.

Companies in Newcastle, Gateshead and around the country were targeted by the fraudsters, who bought items using the card details of unsuspecting bank customers.

Jordan Hamilton Thomas
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Newcastle Crown Court heard the £90,000 fraud left businesses, who were later told the transactions had been fraudulent, out of pocket and those who had their details stolen were left feeling stressed and inconvenienced.

Police said pictures were seized from fraudster’s phones that showed them enjoying extravagant holidays and showing off expensive jewellery funded by their scam.

The trio, who may have been working with others, were jailed after admitting conspiracy to defraud between 2017 and 2019.

Abbas was jailed for two years, Memon was jailed for 27 months and Hamilton-Thomas was jailed for 26 months. Here’s the full story.

Umair Memon
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Employee pocketed more than £28,000 by fraudulently claiming expenses

A trusted worker pocketed more than £28,000 by fraudulently claiming expenses from his employer.

Paul Fitch submitted false receipts to claim the expenses from his bosses at technology firm, Accenture, over a nine-month period.

But the 42-year-old’s deceit was finally exposed after an investigation was launched and he was arrested.

Paul Fitch leaves North Tyneside Magistrates' Court in North Shields
Paul Fitch leaves North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court in North Shields
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Fitch, of Cloverfield, in West Allotment, is facing a jail sentence after he pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation during a hearing at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.

The prosecutor said Fitch worked for Accenture, in Newcastle, at the time of the offences between December 2017 and September 2018.

The defendant is due to attend Newcastle Crown Court for sentence on March 2. Here is the full court report.

Gang fleeced 86-year-old for roofing work then conned him again by posing as trading standards

A cruel gang of conmen fleeced an elderly man twice – first by charging extortionate rates for roofing work then by posing as trading standards investigating the scam.

The 86-year-old needed some work carried out at his home after high winds left it in a dangerous state.

Rogue builders persuaded him to pay significant sums, far in excess of the value of the work.

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To compound the pensioner’s misery, a member of the gang then phoned him posing as someone called Inspector Green from trading standards.

He spun a yarn about investigating cowboy builders and tricked the victim into handing over a further £20,000.

Connor Hudson, 22, of Barnes Road, Murton, County Durham, who allowed the money to be laundered through his bank account, has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Hudson, who has five previous convictions, claimed he acted under duress from the gang but was convicted of being in possession of £395 of criminal property and transferring £20,404 of criminal property, following a trial by magistrates. Read the full story here.

Rogue builder pocketed customers’ deposits but failed to do the work

David Wilkinson
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

Rogue builder David Wilkinson pocketed cash from customers for work then didn’t bother carrying it out.

The conman, who traded as DM Plastering and Building Supplies, accepted deposits for jobs then came up with excuses when frustrated customers asked when the work would be done.

The 29-year-old continued taking victims’ cash even after he had been caught once and released on bail.

At Newcastle Crown Court, prosecutor Joe Hedworth said when one mum made repeated attempts to get her money back from Wilkinson, she was warned she would be “done for harassment” if she kept trying.

The court heard victims, who said they had trusted the tradesman as he was a “local lad”, were left feeling “completely let down”, “taken advantage of”, “very angry” and “very upset”.

Wilkinson, of Prescot Road, Sunderland, admitted five charges of fraud. He was given seven months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with 150 hours unpaid work and an order to pay back all of the money he took.

The judge said an immediate jail term would impact on Wilkinson’s partner and children and he would be given “one opportunity” to put his family first.

Helen Towers, defending, said Wilkinson had been conducting a “legitimate business” but had not appreciated the financial and other pressures associated with it.

Miss Towers said Wilkinson did not target any victims but had “buried his head in the sand” and wants to pay back all of the money that customers lost. The full story is here.

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Mum stole more than £25,000 from her motor trade employer in customer refund scam

A scheming mum who stole more than £25,000 from her employer in a refund scam was spared prison.

Tracy Griffin abused her trusted position on Vertu Motors Plc’s administration team to divert cash so she could pay off debts.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the con was exposed when a customer complained that a refund they had been expecting from a service plan had not appeared in their bank.

Prosecutor Marc Atkins told the court: “She was asked about this, at which point she disclosed she had changed the customer’s bank details to those of her eight-year-old son. Following her disclosure, all of her transactions were audited.

“On 68 occasions between June 4, 2015 and May 2, 2017 the defendant had paid refunds totalling £25,377 into accounts belonging to herself, her children and her ex-husband. She had also paid refunds directly to her bank card.”

Griffin, 48, of Centenary Avenue, South Shields, admitted fraud by false representation.

Judge Advocate Edward Legard sentenced her to 12 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with 200 hours unpaid work. Here’s the full story.

Carer stole more than £13,000 from three vulnerable care home residents

Miriam Raine leaving North Tyneside Magistrates' Court, North Shields
Miriam Raine leaving North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, North Shields
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

A carer stole more than £13,000 from vulnerable care home residents she was supposed to be looking after.

Miriam Raine helped herself to the bank cards of three residents and used them to pay for “goods and services” for herself.

Between March and November 2017, the 46-year-old stole the cards from the victims while they were in care homes in Jarrow, Ponteland and North Shields. In total, £13,211.97 was taken from the pensioners, a court heard.

However, Raine’s cruel con eventually caught up with her after an investigation was launched and she was arrested.

She appeared before North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, where she pleaded guilty to three counts of theft and three of fraud by false representation.

Raine, of Lulworth Avenue, Jarrow, was committed to Newcastle Crown Court for sentence. Read the full court report here.

Insurance claims handler exploited system weakness to plunder £136,000 to fund gambling habit

Damien McMenzie leaving North Tyneside Magistrates' Court, North Shields
Damien McMenzie leaving North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court, North Shields
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

A trusted senior claims handler at an insurance firm exploited weaknesses in the system to systematically plunder £136,000 to bankroll his gambling habit.

Damien McMenzie abused his position at Tesco Underwriting to make 51 fraudulent transactions into his own account.

The 36-year-old, who had worked there since 2011, was based at Quorum Business Park, in North Tyneside, dealing with customers who made insurance claims and he was also responsible for training other claims handlers.

But behind the veneer of respectability, he had been stealing for years.

Ian West, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court : “For about four years, between May 2015 and July 2019, days before he resigned his post, the defendant engaged in systematic fraud on his employer.”

When he was interviewed by police, McMenzie said he got into debt due to his gambling addiction.

McMenzie, of Weetslade Crescent, Dudley, North Tyneside, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position and was sentenced to two years suspended for two years. Read the full story here.

Builder jailed after scamming thousands of pounds out of customers

Durham Crown Court in the centre of the city
Durham Crown Court in the centre of the city
(Image: Newcastle Chronicle)

A builder who defrauded customers out of thousands of pounds was jailed for 12 months.

Paul Phillips, 64, of Brackenfield Road, Framwellgate Moor, appeared at Durham Crown Court after Durham County Council’s Trading Standards team took legal action against him.

In June 2019, a customer contacted Phillips about repairs to his shed roof and arranged a date in July that year, the court heard.

Phillips contacted the customer and offered to sell them a new shed that had become available and quoted £1,250 for the sale and installation.

However, on the date the shed was to be delivered, the customer received another call to say Phillips’ mother had died overnight and someone else would be organised to deliver and install the shed, in his place.

After the shed never arrived, the customer requested a refund and they were refused.

In an interview with Trading Standards officers, Phillips admitted that he had not ordered a shed and had lied to the customer about this.

In August the same year, another customer had contacted Phillips about a single-storey extension to their home in Hartlepool.

Phillips visited the property and quoted £17,800 which was reduced to £15,000 and a fee of £640 for building control. During the discussion, it was agreed that the works be completed by Christmas.

The following September, Phillips advised that building control approval had been granted, but failed to provide documentation despite a request.

Phillips also did not work on the extension and his son worked on the site in his absence from October 2019.

After it became apparent the work was not progressing as agreed, Phillips provided the customer with a number of reasons for the lack of progress but guaranteed the work would be concluded by December, 1 2019.

By December 19, the work had still not been completed.

The customer arranged for a building inspector who attended the property on December 23, and advised that the works were not authorised, and the structure had to be taken down to damp-proof level.

A total of £12,700 had been paid to Phillips and the customer was forced to pay another £4,000 to a new builder to rectify work carried out.

Phillips pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and misleading commercial practice and was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment.

Chronicle Live – Sunderland