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JAILED: Gang who ran £2m "fraud factory" from Bournemouth
5:40am Wednesday 21st August 2013 in News
AN organised crime gang who ran a "fraud factory" from Bournemouth and stole more than 3,000 identities in an attempt to defraud at least £2 million of income tax has been jailed.
The four men, all Eastern Europeans, played different roles in the complicated fraud, submitting false self assessment tax repayment claims using stolen and hijacked identities.
Customs officers say the true extent of the fraud and number of identities stolen may never be known, but the gang carried out at least 1,300 separate attempted fraudulent attacks on HMRC.
The gang put fake classified adverts in a magazine aimed at Eastern Europeans offering work, then stole the identities of people who answered. They also created identities based on contact details found in other classified notices.
Then they flew friends in from Lithuania to open bank accounts in the stolen names, before flying them home again.
Those whose identities were hijacked were mainly Polish people living in the UK, often London-based builders and construction workers looking for work or advertising their business services.
The fraud was only uncovered when Dorset Police uncovered an apparent "fraud factory" in Knyveton Road, Bournemouth, in February 2009, while investigating a bail offence.
They found evidence including a number of Eastern European identity documents and hundreds of HMRC forms in different names.
HMRC and Dorset Police officers swooped on the Lyubomyr Sytailyo's rented flat at Blue Waters, Panorama Road, on June 5 2009. Sytailyo was not at home, but evidence uncovered at the rented address suggested he was in charge of an organised gang.
Sytailyo, a former tax agent, also used the identities of people who contacted him for tax assistance.
Zoe Ellerbeck, HMRC Assistant Director Criminal Investigation, said: “This was a blatant, highly-organised attack to defraud the UK tax system of vast sums of money using the stolen identities of unsuspecting people. During our four-year investigation we discovered the gang hijacked at least 3,000 different identities in an attempt to claim money they weren’t entitled to.
“HMRC officers, working closely with local police forces, were able to stop over £1.3 million claimed by the fraudsters being paid out."
Southampton Crown Court was told that Sytaiylo and associate Ruslanas Bobrovas ran the fraudulent operation.
Besik Zveiba managed the operation and controlled the identity mules brought into the UK. Kardo Aanderson was responsible for assisting the people who entered the UK and ensuring the accounts were opened.
Bobrovas,37, and Sytaiylo, 39, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cheat the revenue earlier this year. Zveiba, 41, and Anderson, 26, were found guilty by jury at Southampton Crown Court on July 2 2013 of the same charge.
The four men received jail sentences totalling 22 and a half years.
Sytaiylo, 39, a British citizen born in the Ukraine, pleaded guilty and was jailed for seven and a half years.
Besik Zveiba, 41, a British citizen born in Georgia who lived in Kent Street, Southampton, was found guilty and given four and a half years.
Kardo Anderson, 26, an Estonian national, of Radley Terrace, London, was jailed for four years.
And Ruslanas Bobrovas, 37, a Lithuanian national, of The Birches, Southampton, was jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Two other people were found not guilty of all charges on 2 July 2013. A seventh person arrested in March 2011 failed to answer bail.
Upon sentencing, His Honour Judge Peter Henry, said: “This was a large scale conspiracy to cheat the revenue over five years. It was not particularly sophisticated, it was nonetheless outrageous. It was straightforward in concept, but needed a great deal of planning.”
He added: “This case is one in my view of serious organised crime.”
Confiscation proceedings will follow.
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