By Neil Docking | Liverpool Echo |
A gang of fraudsters, including three Zimbabweans, hijacked the details of small businesses to get credit for expensive items and live a life of luxury in the UK.
Detectives from Merseyside Police ’s economic crime team began an investigation into a large-scale cheque fraud in 2012.
The investigation uncovered a “short firm fraud” – when crooks use a legitimate company’s details to obtain credit for items – in 2015.
Four fraudsters were convicted after a three-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court and were jailed for a total of 20 years.
Trevor Mavengawenya, 38, of Cornhill, Liverpool city centre, was jailed for six years after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.
Malvin Chiwanga, 36, of Hornby Road, Orrell Park, was jailed for seven years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to commit short firm fraud and cheque fraud.
Brio Mugair, 36, of Hornby Road, Orrell Park, was jailed for five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit short firm fraud and cheque fraud
Paddington Muzondiwa, 34, of Cawdor Court, Farnworth, was jailed for 16 months after admitting conspiracy to commit cheque fraud.
A fifth man, Emmanuel Delima, 27, of Lincoln Crescent, Bootle, was found not guilty of conspiracy. However he was handed 12 months in prison, suspended for two years, plus 200 hours unpaid work after he pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice and fraud by false representation.
Speaking after the case, Detective Inspector Graeme Towndrow said it showed that fraud of this kind was “not a victim-less crime”.
He said: “Chiwanga, Mavengawenyu and Mugair are serial and determined fraudsters who in essence have committed identity fraud by stealing the identities of successful businesses, to obtain high value goods from suppliers.
“The fraudsters took advantage of fraudulent documentation obtained by Delima in 2009.
“This investigation was prompted by a previous cheque fraud investigation, whereby Chiwanga, Mugair and Muzondiwa have recruited money mules to obtain cash by tendering fraudulent cheques or paying the cheques into personal bank accounts.”
The court heard the arrest of Mugair led to a short firm fraud investigation.
Det Insp Towndrow said: “This is where the offenders would fraudulently claim to be legitimate prosperous companies to send credit applications to wholesalers.
“The wholesaler would conduct due diligence checks into a legitimate company and this would come back as a company they could do business with.
“The wholesaler would then provide credit unknowingly to the fraudsters, who would submit purchase orders for goods.
“These goods, which ranged from Apple and Dell computer products to HGV tyres and building supplies, would then be delivered to non-registered addresses, where they would be collected by the fraudsters and never paid for. Leaving businesses with a loss.
“The scam was so convincing that sadly a number of astute, intelligent business owners were taken in and lost out financially.
“The offenders, in particular Chiwanga, meanwhile lived a life of luxury on the back of their crimes.”
Det Insp Towndrow said the sentences should serve as a warning to fraudsters that it would protect the public from being conned.
He added: “While the court’s decision today cannot undo the financial and emotional harm caused by the fraudsters, we hope it brings the victims some sense of justice.”