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Operation Siren

An individual, who was targeting vulnerable victims with fraudulent mortgages totalling around £30m, has been the subject of an investigation by West Midlands Police, with support from the ROCUWM TOEX team.

Following a referral from HSBC, Operation Siren looked to investigate a sole trader and property management business, which advertised itself as offering mortgage advice.

Through a POCA search, seizure warrants and Disclosure Orders, it was ascertained that the individual had arranged a minimum of 200 fraudulent mortgages with a value of around £30m, of which the offender had charged anywhere from £2.5k to £5k to arrange, utilising falsified bank statements and payslips.

In addition, evidence gathered, following visits, suggested the suspect owned and/or managed around 40 properties, which were rented out as houses of multiple occupation or to persons of low income/asylum seekers and/or in poor health and were in an appalling condition. The tenants were either paying cash direct to the property management business, which was not banked or were having their housing benefit paid direct into the offender’s accounts – this totalled as much as £17k every month. None of this income had been declared to HMRC.

The TOEX Response

The TOEX team developed a package, using two datasets, one showing the housing benefits payments the city council provided to the suspect, and another, which was made up of nearly 200 ledgers related to payments made to the estate agency for individual properties. These datasets were then combined in order to identify and link the income the offender was receiving, which had not been declared.

As a result, the team were then able to create charts and tables, which broke down the income related to properties that were associated to the individual in question, which the investigation team used to further support their evidence and has been provided to CPS as an exhibit.

In April 2021, the suspect was arrested in connection with the fraudulent mortgage offences in addition to money laundering and criminal tax evasion. Following questioning, he was released pending further investigation, by the force and HMRC.

Detective Constable Alistair Gadd, of ROCUWM, said: “The work of the TOEX team was fantastic – they were able to use the datasets we gave them as well as their own systems to bring pieces of the jigsaw together, linking the suspect to the properties and the criminality taking place.

“Without assistance from the TOEX team, the investigation would not have progressed as quickly as it has done and there was a real risk of further vulnerable people being exploited by this individual.”