Two postmen have been warned they face jail after being found guilty of taking part in a £1.3m money laundering operation.
Shaker Javaid and Alex Stocks set up bank accounts which were used as a conduit for huge sums conned out of more than 200 victims of internet scams from all around the world.
A judge said it ‘beggars belief’ that the two men, who were working as postmen in Preston, were able to handle so much money.
The pair were caught after overseas students at Exeter University fell victim to a fraud in which they were swindled out of thousands of pounds they paid as deposits for non- existent luxury flats.
Some of the payments were traced back to accounts run by the men from their homes in Preston, and inquiries then found these had been used in many other swindles.
The most serious fraud was against a German woman who was blackmailed into transferring her life savings of £25,000 after hackers convinced her they would kill her family if she refused.
Javaid and Stocks claimed they were victims of the same international conspiracy and thought they were handling genuine payments for online car accessory sales.
The jury at Exeter Crown Court found they had both been involved in the money laundering scam, but cleared Stocks of the more serious charge of conspiracy.
Javaid, 32, of Albert Terrace, Preston, and Stocks, 30, of Birkett Drive, Ribbleton, Preston, denied conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime. Javaid was found guilty and Stocks cleared of conspiracy but convicted of money laundering. Javaid was also found guilty of five related offences of laundering or fraud.
Their sentences were adjourned by Judge Erik Salomonsen, who remanded Javaid in custody and released Stocks on bail.
The judge said: “The Crown’s position is that Javaid was always the leader and Stocks was the bagman so far as the cash was concerned.
“Money laundering is becoming all too common and everyone knows about internet scams. Everyone has received an email apparently from one or two friends who say they have had a terrible accident abroad. In this case there is all the other money which passed through the accounts.
“Javaid is going to receive a long prison sentence and some £200,000 passed through the account controlled by Stocks. It beggars belief but it’s true.
“In granting him bail, I appreciate his criminality is less than Javaid, but he is still likely to receive an immediate sentence.”
During the week-long trial, the jury heard how accounts in the name of Flashclaims and Global Supplies were controlled by the two men and used for the transfer of sums totalling £1.3m from around the world.
The victims included students from China, Greece and Africa, who transferred money electronically in the belief they were securing a tenancy at a luxury flat in the Southernhay shopping centre in Exeter.
The fraudsters tried to hide their identities by using money transfer services including Moneygram and Western Union.
These are normally secure but they conned the victims into sending them copies of the emails, thus enabling them to withdraw the cash.
Javaid claimed he was roped into the scheme by a mystery man called Mohammed, who he met at a technology fair in Norway and told him the money was for car parts.
Stocks said he got involved as a favour to his fellow postman Javaid, and had no idea there was anything dodgy going on. The jury’s verdict means they accepted he was duped but decided he must have known something illegal was going on.
The pair will be sentenced after probation officers in Preston have prepared a pre-sentence report on Stocks.