Fraudster who conned elderly Fulwood couple out of their home and lifesavings is ordered to pay back more than £300,000
A conman who posed as a bank employee to defraud an elderly Preston couple suffering dementia out of their home and lifesavings has been told to pay back more than £300,000 or face another three years in jail.
Syed Bukhari, 38, now of no fixed address but formerly of Deepdale Avenue, Withington, Manchester, was sentenced to seven years and 11 months in September 2018 after pleading guilty to fraud.
The sentence came as a result of an investigation by Lancashire Police after it was discovered a house in Fulwood belonging to a married elderly couple had been sold without their knowledge.
Enquiries also revealed that numerous bank accounts and credit cards had been taken out in their name.
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Bukhari had withdrawn from their existing accounts and stole in excess of £150,000 of their life savings whilst purporting to be their son or a bank employee helping the pair.
His activities began around November 2017 when the couple, who are both in their 80s, were contacted by a man under the guise of ‘Gerry Patel’ from their bank.
Bukhari would go onto make a £40,000 online loan application in the husband’s name – which was later cancelled – and then pose as the couple’s son in an attempt to get control of the account.
When the couple were visited by a PCSO and a financial investigator after concerns were raised relating to unusual financial activity, the wife declined any help, having been totally convinced that she was receiving genuine help by Bukhari.
She stated that none of their money was missing and that an Asian man, believed to be Bukhari, from their bank had been helping them.
The financial investigator visited the couple’s bank who confirmed that someone had been to see the couple but it was later revealed that this was a legitimate visit and was not the same person the wife had referred to.
Within weeks, 10 different bank accounts and credit cards in the victim’s names had been opened fraudulently via online applications.
One of the accounts had almost £100,000 deposited into it, which was later found to be from savings and investments belonging to the couple.
The bank immediately froze the account after becoming suspicious and Bukhari, unable to access the money, then began making multiple calls to the bank claiming to be the couple's son.
He began angrily questioning why the account was blocked, claiming his 'father' would be attending the Blackpool branch to resolve the problem.
Later that day, the husband attended the bank with a note stating that it was evidence of where the money had come from and that the details should be sent to head office but he was confused as to why he was there with no knowledge of the account.
Staff at the bank were so concerned about him, they helped him find his car and contacted the police. They left the block on the account in place.
As a result, two PCSOs visited the couple’s home in Fulwood later that afternoon where their door was answered by Bukhari, again using the name Gerry Patel.
He was on the phone to the bank still trying to get the account unblocked. Confused, the wife told the PCSOs that Gerry was a friend of their son and that they were "fine".
"Gerry" said that the husband had probably been to the bank with his son. Later, the bank unblocked the account and all of the money was withdrawn or transferred.
It was established that the couple’s mail was also redirected which was stopped when the victim asked her postman why she hadn’t had any post and Bukhari also had their landline diverted to a line used by him.
In January 2018, the couple’s real son contacted the police, concerned that his parents had been victims of fraud after seeing letters about various overdrafts they had not applied for.
Detectives started an investigation and it was revealed that the couple had been driven round various banks in Chorley, Blackburn and Manchester.
New accounts had been opened, requests were made to reactivate frozen accounts or to transfer various sums of money between accounts, all the while believing that “Gerry from the bank” was helping them from losing their home.
It was also found that their home - where they had lived for 40 years - had been sold on December 21 to a private company without their knowledge for less than the market value.
Bukhari was identified as a suspect and officers discovered he had made six trips to Dubai and Pakistan in three months often travelling in first and business class.
On one occasion he had spent almost £11,000 on a hotel stay in Dubai.
But on his return to the UK in February 2018, Lancashire officers were waiting for Bukhari as he sat in his business class seat on an Emirates flight at Manchester Airport.
Passengers were ordered to stay onboard the flight after it had arrived from Dubai as investigators from Lancashire Police searched the plane for their suspect.
When arrested he was found to be in possession of the couple’s identity documents and documentation relating to them and the fraudulent accounts.
It was discovered that during his trips, Bukhari had spent tens of thousands of pounds on Rolex watches, jewellery, designer clothes, bags, phones and a cosmetic procedure to have a wig fitted.
Following his conviction, investigators from Lancashire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit and Preston CID combed through Bukhari’s finances and assets to establish exactly how much he had benefited from his criminal behaviour.
Those investigations under Proceeds of Crime powers found that Bukhari benefited from his fraudulent activity to the tune of £561,058 and his total available assets totalled £307,759, including luxury jewellery, cash and mobile phones.
Last week, a Judge at Preston Crown Court told him that if he didn’t pay the full amount within three months he would face an extra 36 months in jail.
The house in Fulwood has since been transferred back to the couple and most of the money they were defrauded of has been reimbursed.
Nomi Lillystone, from the Economic Crime Unit, said: "Bukhari has shown no remorse throughout this investigation and had instead sought to prolong proceedings for as long as he could.
"Lancashire Constabulary will proactively and robustly target those who seek to exploit the most vulnerable in society and hopefully the conclusion of this case will provide some form of closure for Bukhari’s victims and their family.
"If you think you or someone you know has been a victim of something similar, please report it to us or Action Fraud on 0800 123 2040.
"Anyone who feels a registered property could be at risk from fraud can sign up to the award-winning free property monitoring service at https://propertyalert.landregistry.gov.uk/”
For advice on how to spot the signs and how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, you can visit Action Fraud’s website at actionfraud.police.uk.