A Zambian national and his Zimbabwean counterpart have been jailed in the United Kingdom after they were convicted of fraud at Durham Crown Court, United Kingdom earlier this year, Northern Echo reported.
The two leading members of the gang, Raphael Munemo and Tendai Dlamini, who both have previous convictions for mail theft, denied charges of conspiracy to defraud and fraud, but were found guilty following a trial in February.
Munemo, (34), a Zambian national living in Nottingham, received a three-year prison sentence, and his 41-year-old co-accused, a Zimbabwean refugee, of Wakefield, West Yorkshire, was given a one-year prison term.
Their three accomplices, all Zimbabwean nationals living in the UK, each admitted conspiracy to defraud at an earlier plea hearing. The trio were sentenced as follows:
i). Vincent Zwoushe-Zhanje, 32, of Banbridge, County Down, in Northern Ireland, was given a two-year prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 250-hour unpaid work order and 30 probation-led rehabilitation days.
ii). Gray Gwewo, 28, from Leeds, and 28-year-old Ndhlovu, of Bedford, each received 14-month prison sentences, also suspended for two years. Both were also ordered to perform 180 hours of unpaid work and take part in 30 rehabilitation days with the Probation Service.
Munemo and Dlamini appeared again at the court on Friday September 30, via video link from HMPs Northumberland and Leeds, respectively.
The court heard the accused were intercepting postal deliveries to remote addresses, many of them farms, with exterior mailboxes.
Letters would be removed enabling gang members to use the identities of the victims to take out credit, while newly dispatched debit cards, containing PIN details, were removed and used.
Available credit illegally obtained was often transferred onto high-value gift cards, as bank cards could be stopped at short notice.
The court was told the value of credit obtained by the gang was estimated to be in the region of £164,000, not all of which was used, while the trial judge said that figure may only be, “the tip of the iceberg.”
Victims were left shocked when their own genuine transactions were cancelled, while their credit ratings were also affected, although the banks involved eventually largely withstood the losses.
Investigators from the North East Regional Special Operations Unit (NERSOU) established a hierarchy within the gang.
Benefits and Confiscation:
Tom Bennett, for Zwoushe-Zhanje, said it was agreed he benefited by £37 123 from his involvement in the fraudulent activity, but the available amount for confiscation is just £150.
He said the £150 was from a now-closed Bitcoin account in the defendant’s name.
Recorder Alex Menary, therefore, ordered the confiscation of the £150, to be paid within three months, with seven days in prison in default.
Prosecutor Jonathan Harley said the agreed benefit and confiscation figures for Zwoushe-Zhanje’s four co-accused have yet to be finalised but should be in the coming weeks.
Settlement hearings were adjourned until October 28.