"The staff were rightly suspicious and called the police."
Three people, including a magistrate, were sentenced on June 7, 2019, for a £61,500 fraud. They had also paid off court fines using cash from drug dealing.
Inner London Crown Court heard that magistrate Alia Arain, aged 38, from Lambeth, London, and her Catford-based boyfriend Ashad Adams defrauded Arain’s landlady of the money.
They forged her signature on a cheque from a new chequebook sent to their address by accident. They put the money in his friend’s bank account on February 20, 2018.
Arain and 40-year-old Adams intended to go on holiday to celebrate their criminality once they had laundered the money by purchasing expensive goods which would hold their value.
However, on February 24, 2018, police were alerted to their suspicious activities when Adams tried to exchange pounds into Euros.
Adams’ friend Mohammed Shalim Ahmed, aged 40, of Essex, had even called Action Fraud to claim he had been a victim of fraud as the trio’s scams unravelled.
Acting Commander Alexis Boon, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, said:
“The group’s scheme quickly began falling apart when Adams and Ahmed tried to launder a large portion of the cash by changing it into Euros at a money exchange bureau in Heathrow Airport.
“The staff were rightly suspicious and called the police.”
When officers went to the bureau, they found that Adams was wanted for not paying court fines.
But Ahmed paid the fine using the cash obtained Arain’s landlady’s chequebook which was unknown to the police at the time.
Adams was initially held for hiring a car while disqualified. Inside there was heroin and drug-taking equipment.
The chequebook was in the glovebox and another one was found at his home.
Officers also seized just under £3,000 cash Adams was carrying, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Meanwhile, Ahmed spent the rest of the fraudulently obtained money on a Rolex watch.
Acting Commander Boon said:
“Much to Ahmed’s chagrin, the bank did not clear the cheque, leaving Ahmed more than £40,000 overdrawn.”
“Ahmed, realising he would have to pay off the overdraft, had the audacity to call the money crime hotline Action Fraud and claim he had been a victim of fraud.”
Detectives then downloaded recordings from Adams’ mobile phones. They found a series of calls in which he, Arain and Ahmed discussed their crimes.
It revealed that before the fraud, Arain and Adams discussed whether she had sent him a “signature specimen” – she confirmed she had – and where the chequebook was. Arain said she had moved it to his underwear drawer.
Another call found that a stressed-sounding Adams told Arain “find me some watches, find me some gold” to spend the fraudulent money.
She replied: “I’ve already done that.”
Arain then gave a list of shops to visit and the items he should buy, including a second-hand watch because it holds its value “beautifully”.
They also spoke about going away to start a new life with the money.
Arain was questioned in April 2018 and claimed that Ahmed had planted evidence in her flat.
She also denied knowing where her boyfriend was. But on July 13, 2018, police found Adams in her flat.
His phone had recordings of their conversations and he was charged two days later.
At Inner London Crown Court in November 2018, Arain pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
On September 14, 2018, Adams admitted to conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, converting criminal property, possession of drugs and breaching a suspended sentence.
Ahmed was found guilty on May 15, 2019, for money laundering and converting criminal property.
Alia Arain was sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months. She must also carry out 150 hours of unpaid work and pay a victim surcharge of £140.
Ashad Adams was jailed for three years and three months. He must pay a victim surcharge of £170.
Mohammed Shalim Ahmed was sentenced to nine months in prison, suspended for 12 months. He must also carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.
Acting Commander Boon added: “This group wholeheartedly believed they would pull off their crime and end up with a third of the proceeds each, but they didn’t count on the diligence of money exchange bureau staff.
“The actions of staff at the money exchange bureau were superb.
“They have helped ensure that a considerable fraud was stopped and the culprits held to account.”
“The victim has been reimbursed the money by her bank, meanwhile Ahmed continues to owe almost £50,000 to his bank.”