Belfast Telegraph

London college students 'allegedly conned Northern Ireland firms out of smartphones'

Six college students from London allegedly conned Northern Ireland businesses into handing over at least £18,000 worth of smartphones, a court heard today.

The two men and four women are accused of using bogus credit cards to take out contracts during a weekend crime blitz in Belfast and Ballymena.

High-value iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy models were obtained in the scam, with police suspecting more have yet to be recovered.

The accused, including some studying for degrees in business, accountancy and finance, appeared before Belfast Magistrates' Court.

They are: Ashani Imbert, 18, of Henniker Road; Dawn Correa, 20, from Kingsland Road; Feras Suleman, 21, of Frederick Crescent; Danielle McMahon, 18, from Monega Road; Akin Akinlabi, 20, of Charles Crescent House; and Titina Morais, 19, from Callcott Road - all in London.

Charges against them involve either fraudulently taking out mobile phone contracts with a false bank card, possession of criminal property, or conspiracy to obtain mobile phone contracts.

Opposing bail, a detective constable told the court: "Police believe they are all part of the same gang who came to Northern Ireland on Friday with the sole purpose of obtaining these phones by deception."

He said £18,000 worth of property has been recovered so far.

All of the charges relate to offences in Belfast on Saturday. Investigations are continuing into their alleged activities in Ballymena the day before.

Four of the accused were detained yesterday on a bus heading for Dublin, the court heard.

They had left their hotel in Antrim after the other two were arrested earlier.

But defence solicitor Ciaran Maguire said admissions have been made in the case.

He said none of the accused were the organisers, but became involved to make "a few hundred pounds".

"They were readily caught, these six individuals walking into mobile phone shops and taking out two contracts each," he said.

"It almost defies belief that people working in the shops were willing to do that, but as I understand it they were working on commission and perhaps questions weren't asked that should have been."

According to Mr Maguire none of the accused were used to being in custody.

"These are university students who have seen an opportunity to make money easily... and here they are today," he added.

Seeking their release, he pointed out that Akinlabi was due to give a presentation on strategic management tomorrow as part of his accounting and finance degree.

District Judge Fiona Bagnall granted bail for all of the accused on condition that they each provide £1,000 cash sureties.

Adjourning the case until December 23, she said: "They have landed themselves in some very serious matters and I'm sure it has been a very rude awakening this weekend."

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