Four men have been jailed for laundering almost £250,000 made in the sale of a house in Nottinghamshire, which was completed without the knowledge of the legitimate owner.
An investigation by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) revealed that in March 2017 an organised crime group was moving £248,895 across various bank accounts following the fraudulent sale of a detached house in Edwalton.
The house was sold from under its owner and bought by a genuine property developer.
Man 1 and Man 2 were found to be the enablers in moving the proceeds, with Man 3 and Man 4 using their own accounts to move the money, before it was sent abroad and never recovered.
Following the investigation, the sale was ultimately voided and the house ‘returned’ to the original owner.
Three of the four men previously pleaded guilty to money laundering and at Nottingham Crown Court. The fourth man was found guilty at trial in July earlier this year.
On Friday 3 November 2023, the men were sentenced as follows:
Man 1, aged 57 and formerly of Macclesfield, Cheshire, received 33 months imprisonment.
Man 2, aged 51 and of no fixed address, having been extradited from Cape Verde, received 36 months imprisonment.
Man 3, aged 59 and formerly of Egham, Surrey, received 18 months imprisonment.
Man 4, aged 49 and formerly of Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire, received 30 months imprisonment.
They follow a fifth man, who, as part of the EMSOU investigation, was jailed in September for five-and-a-half years for his involvement in the sale of a community centre, with an estimated value of around £5 million, without the knowledge of the owners.
The men will now be subject to the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 in a bid to reclaim any financial gains made from their offending.
EMSOU’s Criminal Finances Manager Doug Ing said: “This was a sophisticated scheme, which required considerable planning and involved the deception of banks as to the reason for the spiderweb of transfers and transactions.
“The financial loss by the new owner was, of course, significant, with the original owner also left out of pocket. We will be looking to recoup these losses through the Proceeds of Crime Act, but in the meantime I am pleased the judge has sentenced these men with jail terms reflecting the seriousness of the crime.”
Andrew Cant, Specialist Fraud Prosecutor at the Serious, Economic, Organised Crime and International Directorate of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “This fraud was sophisticated and calculated, negatively impacting the owners and buyers of this property.
“Fraud is a serious and growing area of criminality which is why the CPS has developed a focused plan to help combat it. By working closely with the East Midlands Special Operations Unit, we were able to build a strong case for prosecution.
“Today’s sentence demonstrates our commitment to bringing fraudsters to justice and acts as a deterrent to those seeking to commit crimes of this nature. We encourage people to report to the police if they think they have fallen victim to a fraud.
“The CPS will continue to work closely with law enforcement agencies to prevent the fraudulent activity of criminals and will now work recover the loss caused to the victims of this crime.”
If you own a property or land, rent to tenants, act on behalf of a homeowner whether they are in the UK or abroad, or know of a house belonging to an elderly or vulnerable person there are some simple things that you could do to help prevent property fraud.
Familiarise yourself with the latest guidance on identification documents and how to check them if you are involved in this type of work.
Register your UK property with HM Land Registry and sign-up to its free alert system, here.
Consider registering the property at an alternative postal address. For example, if you rent the property to tenants use a PO Box or the address at which you live full-time for all correspondence relating to that residence.
To better protect your land and property from fraudsters visit the Government website.