In December, the National Crime Agency (NCA) managed to claw back millions of dollars from a fraud involving no less than 700 victims. The agency’s illicit finances investigators also retrieved hundreds of thousands of pounds in two other cases where the money is believed to have been linked to criminality. It was a busy Christmas period with the trio of results coming in quick succession.
Last April, the NCA’s Criminal Asset Denial team began helping authorities in the United States to trace money in the UK linked to an American $72 million fraud involving around 700 victims. As US investigators announced charges in Florida over the fraud, the Criminal Asset Denial team secured a linked UK account freezing order on $2 million dollars which stops the money being moved.
On 16 December after close collaboration with US authorities, the US Attorney’s Office, the Crown Prosecution Service and the UK Central Authorities, a restraint order was obtained enabling the money to be sent back to the fraud victims.
On 17 December, Leeds Crown Court granted an increase of more than £105,000 on a confiscation order originally made for just over £166,000 in July 2017. The order was against a man jailed in 2017 for eight-and-a-half years for conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
Following the initial confiscation order, the NCA’s Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team identified a property management company holding further funds for the defendant. The additional money (rental income) had to be paid within three months or the subject of the order faced a further 30 months in prison. The money was paid back in full on the same day. The ACE team also confiscated just over £227,000 on 16 December.
The money came from the proceeds of a sold property belonging to a man previously convicted over mortgage fraud and a drugs trafficking conspiracy. He was the subject of a previous confiscation order in April last year for just over £452,000. The sale of his property took place to avoid any further profit being made on rent.
National Economic Crime Centre director Sarah Pritchard said: “December was a busy month for the asset denial teams. This type of proactive work to deny fraudsters and criminals of their wealth has a real impact. Doing time is a work-related hazard for many of these people, but losing their money and property often isn’t. We are determined to target criminal wealth and take it away where we can.”
NCA Asset Denial team senior manager Jonathan Rainer observed: “We will continue to target criminal finances and explore every opportunity to disrupt serious organised crime, confiscate criminals assets and recover money belonging to victims. If, at the time a confiscation order was made, there was a disparity between benefit and realisable assets, we keep the case under constant review. If assets are identified in the future, we will then seek to recover them and ensure criminals don’t profit from their crimes.”