Gang which conned Sussex OAPs jailed for more than 13 years

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A gang has been jailed for more than 13 years after it conned elderly and vulnerable victims out of more than £100,000.

A Surrey Police statement says Thomas Curliss, 63, of Pentonville Road, London, Ciaran Daneils, 18, of Pentonville Road, London, Daisy-Mae McFadyen, 21, of Outram Place, London and Michael Papa, 20, of Woodbridge Street, London were found guilty of carrying out a series of fraud offences across the South East at a hearing at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday (May 5).

All four were charged with a total of 81 conspiracy to commit fraud offences which were carried out across Sussex, Surrey, Kent, Thames Valley and Hertfordshire between September 2013 and March 2014.

A police spokesman said the gang are estimated to have stolen cash or bank cards with an overall monetary value of more than £113,000 from 15 different victims and unsuccessfully attempted to take items on a further 66 occasions.

Curliss pleaded not guilty to all charges but was found guilty following a five day trial at Guildford Crown Court in March this year. The other three offenders had all entered guilty pleas at an earlier hearing.

Curliss was sentenced to five years imprisonment, Papa to 40 months, McFadyen was jailed for 30 months and Daniels was jailed for a total of 28 months at Tuesday’s hearing.

Detective Sergeant Ollie Cummings said: “The sentencing of this gang of cowardly offenders sends out a clear message that crimes of this nature will not be tolerated in Surrey and we will do everything possible to bring those responsible before the courts.

“This was a prolific and highly organised criminal gang who shamelessly targeted vulnerable elderly residents across the south east and on a number of occasions stole huge sums of money by exploiting the trust of people who thought they were assisting a police investigation.

“The sentencing marks the culmination of what has been a complex and extensive Surrey Police investigation and the significant custodial sentences imposed on each member of the gang demonstrates the extent and severity of their offending over a sustained period.

“We would also like to commend the actions of the potential victim who reported the incident to police for her quick thinking which allowed us to take action and swiftly arrest Thomas Curliss.”

The fraudsters would telephone their elderly victims and would normally claim to be a Metropolitan Police Service officer and would use a variety of pretences including saying the victim’s bank card had been used by somebody who they were holding in custody.

The offenders would then ask the victims to phone their bank and withdraw money, which they claimed could be used for forensic analysis, and would send a courier to their home address to collect the cash. Meanwhile the fraudsters would stay on the line and obtain the victim’s bank details while they thought they were phoning their bank. A courier would then call at the victim’s address saying they had been sent by the police to collect a parcel - the envelope containing the money. The money would then collected by an unknowing local taxi firm and taken up to the Islington area of London where it would be picked up by members of the group.

Curliss was arrested on March 29 last year after a victim in Brighton realised she was being scammed and alerted police. An officer then posed as a taxi driver and arrested Curliss when he arrived to collect the fraudulently obtained cash.

Surrey Police is continuing to remind members of the public to take the following steps to help protect themselves against fraud:

• Never give out any personal information about your bank account to anybody over the phone.

• If someone calls claiming to be a police officer, ask for their identification number, police force and their telephone extension. Hang up the call, and advise that you will call them back using the 101 number.

• Use a different phone line to call back if possible, i.e: a mobile phone if the call was received on your landline.

• If you have given out information which could compromise your bank account security in any way, call your bank up to cancel your cards as soon as possible.

• Never hand over money to someone at the door to be sent off elsewhere.

• If someone comes to your door claiming to be a police officer or staff member, always ask for identification and make note of their identification number.