Arrests follow flats scam reports

MONEY laundering cops have made a series of arrests in connection with a multi-million pound property fraud involving scores of flats on Ipswich Waterfront, The Evening Star can reveal.

MONEY laundering cops have made a series of arrests in connection with a multi-million pound property fraud involving scores of flats on Ipswich Waterfront, The Evening Star can reveal.

It has emerged today that 11 people arrested by police in connection with a huge property scam in Thamesmead, South London, are also suspected of the Ipswich fraud involving Persimmon's Orwell Quay development.

In what could prove to be one of the biggest property fraud investigations the UK has seen, the gang is also in the frame for similar frauds on developments in Nottingham and Leeds.

The group is believed to have made millions by bulk buying new build apartments in deeply discounted deals while taking fake mortgages out at inflated prices and pocketing the difference.

The cost to banks and building societies is thought to be in excess of £40million while the gang also targeted district councils by making false benefit claims on behalf of bogus people said to be living in the flats.

The massive con was uncovered by a fraud investigator at Ipswich Council after dodgy benefit claims were spotted.

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Checks led to the discovery of an elaborate fraud stretching across the country.

A spokesman for the Met Police said eleven arrests have been made by the force's money laundering team.

One of the men was found with a briefcase containing 152,000 euros and $2,000 dollars while another was arrested while carrying a carrier bag stuffed with £100,000 in cash.

The Star first lifted the lid on the property fraud at Orwell Quay back in August 2006.

Earlier this week, construction firm Persimmon revealed they are assisting investigations regarding 70 properties on the development.

The eleven people arrested are currently on police bail and are due to report to Central London Police Station between July 2 and July 4.

Were you affected by the mortgage fraud? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

ELEVEN people have been bailed to dates between July 2 and July 4 to report to Central London Police Station.

A 39-year-old man was arrested in North London on October 13, 2006 on suspicion of laundering the proceeds of crime. He was found in possession of a briefcase containing 152,000 Euros and $2,000 US dollars.

A 28-year old man was arrested in North London on October 13, 2006 on suspicion of laundering the proceeds of crime. He was found in possession of a carrier bag containing £100,000 cash.

A 38-year-old man was arrested in Dartford, Kent, on October 13, 2006 for money laundering offences following the recovery of £55,000 in sterling and US dollars from the premises.

A fourth man, age unknown, was arrested on August 9, 2007 for money laundering offences.

A 42-year-old man was arrested on May 22, 2006 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

A 38-year-old man was arrested on May 23, 2007 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

A 26-year-old woman was arrested on May 24, 2007 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

A man was arrested on June 27, 2007 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

A 45-year-old man was arrested on June 28, 2007, on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

A 62-year-old man was arrested on May 17, 2007 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

A man was arrested on July 24, 2007 on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

PAUL (not his real name) is a member of Ipswich Council's anti-fraud unit.

His is a secretive world of investigating fraud both big and small and stopping people swindling council tax-payers out of thousands of pounds.

It may sound like glamorous work - aliases, crime trails and secret meetings - but the reality is one of hard work, quick intelligence and dogged perseverance.

A lot of the work involves individual benefit fraud claims but Paul was instrumental in smashing the nationwide property scam.

He said: “In early 2007, our benefits section received some claims for housing benefit which they asked us to check out as there seemed to be a discrepancy with the National Insurance number on one of them.

“This was well spotted and started the investigation. I looked at all the claims in that location and my intuition took over from there.

“My past experiences strongly suggested that this was the tip of the iceberg. I checked further and believed it was part of a bigger scam.

“I had to sift through various suspect claims and found there were links between them using a process of cross-matching the data and linking information on them.

“The whole process of investigation cannot be revealed, for obvious reasons, but one example I noted was that birth dates of claimants all had the same numbers ­ but in a different order ­ and this led to understanding the minds of the person or people behind the fraud.

“The sifting process was a long laborious one, which provided the clues essential to understanding the bigger picture.

“The outcome of this was that a trail was now being uncovered of false identities, bank accounts, employment records, wages and landlords.

“There were two companies used in the operation which were opened with false documents being provided.

“Gradually, the 'ripple' effect was being seen as one enquiry would lead to another locally, and then nationally.

“I was now in a position to pass my intelligence to the fraud unit at Suffolk Constabulary who were extremely helpful in assisting further with the investigation.”

“I had identified the gang responsible for the fraudulent activity and who their key players were with one person, who I call the 'General', using no less than 16 different aliases and owning at least three passports in different names.

“We had to allay the suspicions of the fraudulent claimants, who were ringing up the council asking what was happening to their claims.

“In the end, we were able to prevent £51,000 being swindled out of the council.

“I also alerted colleagues at several other councils and, hopefully, that has saved many more thousands of pounds.”

Police are today continuing to piece together the elaborate nationwide fraud following the initial uncovering at Ipswich Council's benefit fraud office.