Two Nigerians who used the names of eight innocent people to fraudulently receive £489,000 from the UK Government’s Coronavirus Bounce Back loan programme have been jailed.
Timilehin Yvette Olasemo, 39, of Bedale Road, Romford, appeared in court on March 17 and was sentenced to three years and two months in jail for conspiracy to commit theft through false representation.
On November 12, 2020, Olasemo pled guilty to the charge at Southwark Crown Court.
Olufumi David Akinneye, 33, of Cowthorpe Road, Lambeth, was sentenced to five years and six months in jail for conspiring to launder money and conspiracy to commit theft after pleading guilty to both charges on November 12, 2020, at Southwark Crown Court.
Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the UK Government created a scheme to support businesses struggling through the lack of economic activity. The scheme was effectively a Government-backed loan organised and managed through UK banks.
The size of the loan available is determined by turnover demonstrated by the business to the satisfaction of the bank.
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic and the economic consequences on the UK economy, the loan scheme was set up to ensure that applicants were looked upon favourably, and that their application was processed quickly, resulting in limited security checks being undertaken.
The court heard how Olasemo manipulated loopholes in the application framework and discovered she could create fake companies – using real people’s identities – to apply for loans with the help of others.
Since the company account was registered to a different address from the personal account holder’s, the actual personal account holder would not be aware of its presence until the bank pursued them for loan repayments.
Akinneye was the first of the two to be discovered through simultaneous investigations into organised crime by officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s North West London Economic Crime Unit. Data seized during Akinneye’s detention led to the identification of Olasemo.
Officers from the Met’s North West Economic Crime Squad, which is part of the Metropolitan Police Service’s Central Specialized Crime Command, arrested Olasemo at her home address on Friday, October 16. The next day, she was convicted and remanded in detention.
The investigating officers identified that £489,000 worth of fraudulent loan applications were made using ten identities. Of this, £297,000 worth of loans were successfully obtained by the pair and dissipated. The remaining amount was successfully stopped by the banks.
It was discovered that Olasemo had obtained and used the personal details of eight individuals in order to fraudulently apply for the loans. She had stolen these identities after accessing employee records containing personal information during her employment.
The fraudulently obtained monies was paid into the business bank account before being dispersed into mule accounts and later withdrawn from cash machines. Throughout this process, Olasemo sought advice from an accomplice named Olufumi David Akinneye.
Akinneye provided Olasemo with guidance in relation to laundering the proceeds of the frauds and safe addresses to use as correspondence for accounts.
He also acted as a middle-man between people who were willing to sell on their bank accounts for use in fraud and other fraudsters who needed mule accounts to receive money obtained from diversion frauds. £290,381 obtained from diversion fraud was found to have passed through the mule accounts connected to Akinneye.
Detective Constable Chris Collins, of the Met’s North West Economic Crime Unit, said:
“Today’s result serves as evidence of the zero-tolerance approach the MPS takes to individuals found guilty of fraud. We will continue to crackdown on individuals who are found to be exploiting government schemes for their own monetary gain.”
Akinneye was also convicted for his involvement in Romance Fraud.
Analysis of his phone revealed that he had set up a false persona – pretending to be a woman online to ensnare men – fabricating several stories in order to request money for flights, accommodation and a replacement passport.
In some cases victims of the romance scam were duped into becoming money mules themselves by allowing fraudulent funds to be paid into their own bank accounts.
Akinneye was arrested on Thursday, 20 August by officers from the Met’s North West Economic Crime Unit. He was charged and remanded the same day.