Students cheated in £2m mobile phone scam

one of the gang, Jonathan Boorman
Image caption Jonathan Boorman, described as the "big boss" of the gang

A gang that targeted students in a huge mobile phone scam have been sentenced to up to six years in prison.

The group of seven set up fraudulent phone contracts with people's personal details.

Some of the students they tricked were left in serious debt which affected their credit ratings.

It's estimated they conned phone companies out of £2m in what police say was a "long-running and sophisticated fraud".

The police got involved after two students at the University of Sheffield reported their bank accounts were being used fraudulently.

The investigation uncovered an operation that targeted mobile phone companies including EE, Vodafone, O2, T-Mobile, Three and Virgin.

Here's how it worked

Students were paid £50 for a phone contract to be taken out in their name. They were told there was nothing dishonest about this.

Many were recruited through social networks attached to university groups, including the rugby teams at Leeds and Sheffield.

When the group got sent new handsets - mainly the iPhone 5s - they would cancel the contract and send back a fake, cheap phone.

The originals would then be unlocked and sold abroad where they could be used with a foreign SIM card.

Alex Karonias
Image caption "Second in command" Alex Karonias was jailed for five years

The other way they made money was to sell the SIM cards to a text marketing company.

In many cases, the phone contract was not cancelled, leaving the students with large debts which subsequently affected their credit ratings.

This case should act as a warning for any student who is offered a cash incentive to hand over their personal details
Det Insp Louise Shea
Met Police Cyber Crime Unit

The man at the heart of the operation was 32-year-old Jonathan Boorman from Bath. In a spreadsheet seized by police, he was described as "big boss."

He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to six years and four months' imprisonment. He was also banned for 10 years from being the director of any company.

"The motive for this crime was pure greed," said Det Insp Louise Shea, from the Metropolitan Police's Cyber Crime Unit.

She said the case should "act as a warning" for any student who is tempted to hand over personal details in return for cash.

Presentational grey line

The other people involved in the fraud were:

Alex Karonias, 32, of Palewell Park, East Sheen, Richmond-upon-Thames, who pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and was sentenced to five years' imprisonment and banned for 10 years from being the director of any company

Charlie Shelton, 31, of The Ridgway, Wandsworth, south-west London, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud was sentenced to three years and three months' imprisonment and banned for six years from being the director of any company.

Robert Morrison, 31, of Hardwicks Square, Wandsworth, south-west London, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud was sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment and banned for five years from being the director of any company.

Thomas Maynard, 26, of Pagoda Gardens, Blackheath, south-east London, who pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and must complete 160 hours unpaid work.

Reiss Rawson, 31, SW6, of Ranelagh Mansions, New Kings Road, Fulham, south-west London, who was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of money laundering, was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and must complete 160 hours unpaid work.

Laura Kane, 28, of Elm Road, Kidderminster, Worcestershire, who was found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of money laundering, was sentenced to five years and six months' imprisonment and banned for 10 years from being the director of any company.

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