Jail for 'heartless' gang who fleeced £1 million from vulnerable victims
A gang of conmen who fleeced pensioners out of their life savings in a £1 million fraud have been condemned by a judge as "heartless" as they were all jailed.
The conmen posed as police officers to dupe elderly victims, including a Second World War veteran, into handing over their money.
The cash was spent bankrolling someone travelling to Syria and frittered away on foreign holidays and designer clothes.
The victims, who were in their 70s, 80s, and 90s, were preyed upon because they were old and "vulnerable" and some have died without seeing justice done.
Many have been left nearly penniless by the scam as they have not had all their money refunded by the banks.
Sentencing the gang, which includes former X Factor contestant Nathan Fagan-Gayle, Judge Anujar Dhir said victims were left "shattered" by the crime.
She said: "You all played a part in a fraud that targeted elderly, vulnerable victims. The youngest of the identified victims was 63 years old. Most of them were in their 80s. The oldest was 94 years old.
"It was a heartless plan with a devastating and lasting impact on the victims.
"You fleeced your victims of large sums of money. For some of them it was their life savings.
"But their loss was more than that. They lost confidence in their own ability to look after themselves and their own affairs and this contributed to the distress and misery which your victims have endured for the last two years."
The Old Bailey judge paid tribute to the victims and said the gang of eight men had shown no remorse for their crimes
She said: "Having heard some of the victims give evidence in the trial, it is clear to me that they were left completely shattered by your actions and the effect of it will last until the end of their lives.
"I was struck by their dignity and their courage when giving evidence about a matter that was so obviously painful for them to relive."
She added: "None of you has shown any remorse. None of you has done anything to return any of the money you stole. None of you has had the decency to explain what happened to the money."
Gang members phoned their victims pretending to be investigating a fraud at their bank and told them they needed to transfer their money for "safekeeping".
They persuaded one of their elderly cancer-stricken victims to miss a doctor's appointment to withdraw cash for them.
Believing they were helping police, victims were deceived into lying to their family, friends and the bank about what they were doing.
The men, described by police as "cruel, callous and calculating" committed fraud on an "industrial" level in 2014 and 2015.
Kenneth Whitaker, who fought at the Battle of Arnhem and was 93 at the time of the fraud, said he was left feeling "dumb and stupid" after he had £113,000 stolen from him.
Elizabeth Curtis, 71 at the time of the fraud, who was conned out of £130,000, said she felt "physically sick" and had her independence and self confidence shattered.
Barbara Davidson, 86, from Poole, had £14,000 stolen from her. She had been planning to use the money to visit her family in South Africa, but now fears she will never see her relatives again before she dies.
Some 140 victims had nearly £1m stolen from them, and the Metropolitan Police believe far more people were conned but have not come forward.
The victims, the oldest of whom was 94, were from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Bedfordshire, London and Kent.
Fagan-Gayle, 29, from Tower Hamlets, East London, was jailed for 20 months.
"Key player" Makhzhumi Abukar, 24, from north London, was jailed for seven years and four months, Yasser Abukar, 24, also from North London, was jailed for six years.
Shakaria Aden, 22, a "prolific cash collector" who picked up £154,000, was jailed for six and a half years.
Ahmed Ahmed, 23, of north London, was jailed for four years and two months.
Mohamed Dahir, 23, who received a letter from Jeremy Corbyn in support of his bail application last May, was jailed for 21 months.
Fahim Islam, 21, of east London, was jailed for six years and three months for his role in this and a "strikingly similar" fraud also targeting pensioners.
Anrul Islam, 24, from Dagenham, East London, was jailed for 16 months for this and a student loan fraud.