Criminal mastermind Patson Mupinyuri, 37, forger Collen Chikore, 42, and Simbarashe Dengu, 30, engaged four conwomen who power-dressed to scam charities, schools, businesses and a church out of £750,000 during a UK-wide crime wave.
Unemployed Tracey Henry, 52, disguised herself as a businesswoman to cash counterfeit cheques and invoices at banks including branches in Chelsea, Richmond, Wimbledon, Camden, Paddington and Wood Green.
Henry, of Harlesden, Cynthia Archibong, 48, of Grays, Toni Shorley, 38, and Amy Browne, 37, of north London, also impersonated wealthy account holders for ringleader Mupinyuri, Inner London Crown Court heard.
Mupinyuri splashed out thousands on cars and hotels for his “runners” as the gang committed crimes from Exeter to Aberdeen. On one occasion, he booked rooms at the five-star Celtic Manor golf resort in Newport, South Wales.
Mupinyuri would research businesses to target and harvest bank signatories’ names, dates of birth and addresses.
He provided these stolen details to Chikore, who used advanced technology to produce high-quality forged cheques and invoices. Fake driving licences together with the stolen account and security details were used to impersonate genuine customers.
Accounts belonging to a variety of institutions and businesses including charities, schools, town councils and a church were targeted. Police said £746,679 was stolen between February 2017 and July last year. More than 220 counterfeit cheques were cashed with a typical value of £2,000.
But the gang was rumbled when bank staff spotted identical frauds and alerted the dedicated card and payment crime unit, a specialist police department funded by the finance industry. All victims were fully refunded.
After “runner” Colin Mosdell, 33, was arrested, an investigation led to Mupinyuri and Dengu, who were detained alongside Archibong and Shorley in Hull. They were in a Mercedes car preparing to drive off having tried to cash several fraudulent cheques at a bank.
Archibong was seen counting £50 notes before officers seized a large quantity of fake licences, blank cheques and handwritten notes of accounts details. On the same day, Chikore was held in Coventry. A search of his home uncovered equipment used to mass- produce counterfeit cheques including specialist paper, cutting equipment, UV inks and several colour printers.
Detective constable Alex Coubrough, who investigated the case, said: “We have dismantled a highly organised criminal gang who were committing cheque fraud on an industrial scale. We are delighted to have brought these criminals to justice and to have removed the threat they posed to the banking industry and its customers.”
After each pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, Mupinyuri, of Northampton, was jailed for six years; Chikore, of Coventry, six years and two months; Dengu, of Nuneaton, two years and 10 months; and Browne, of London, one year and six months.
For their part as runners, Henry, received three years and three months; Archibong, three years and one month; Shorley, of Cardiff, two years and one month; and Mosdell, of no fixed abode, two years and three months.