Press Release (ePRNews.com) - BRUSSELS, Belgium - Jul 15, 2016 - Mastermind George Tofu, 34, and his team of eight persuaded vulnerable victims to part with their savings in exchange for non-existent assets.
They used the money to fund lavish lifestyles in Spain, Thailand, Nigeria and other places.
Tofu was jailed for five years, six others were also jailed and the final two were found guilty Wednesday.
The last two to be convicted – Tofu’s wife Sarah Robson, 28, and his mother-in-law Jocelyn Cowper, 57 – were found guilty in Brussels of assisting the multi-million pound operation.
They will be sentenced in August.
The case can be now reported following their conviction.
Tofu used a new tactic of cloning well established firms, with solid track records to pressurise people into buying shares in non-existent companies such as Green-Energy Solutions Corporation and New Power Technology.
Both companies havenever traded.
The gang used the websites of the original, genuine companies, but provided so-called “direct-line” telephone numbersand email addresses to convince people, many of whom were elderly and vulnerable, to part with their life savings.
The gang laundered their victims’ money through Swedish and Italian bank accounts.
The money was used to throw parties for up to 300 people in top Barcelona hotels and buy a Ferrari, Bentley and Maserati which Tofu and his team garaged in Marbella.
The fraud became apparent in March 2016 when the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (NFIB) were contacted by a stream of people claiming to have lost money after being cold-called.
Ray Jackson, an 87-year-old Second World War RAF veteran, from Ware in Hertfordshire, said he was cheated out of more than £75,000 by the gang.
“I was sucked in first by their phone calls, then by their website and their reputation online,” he said.
“What I didn’t realise was that the website was not even theirs and I did not get suspicious when they provided me with a personal direct line and email address to contact them. Looking back, I should’ve realised when they kept reminding me to “never call the number on the website.” But they said that I will never get through because they were so busy, so I believed them. They got almost everything. They were ruthless.”
Tofu was caught after a covert operation involving Interpol detectives who sent him texts from his estranged wife’s mobile phone.
Brussels Chief of Police, Pierre Vandersmissen, who led the swoop, described the gang’s conviction as one of his proudest moments.
He said: “George Tofu was a bright and articulate man, but he was also an unscrupulous coward.
“Some of those victims have been suicidal, and the psychological effect on them and their families has been tragic – all so Tofu and his friends could live the lifestyle of a soccer player spending astronomical amounts.”
Interpol traced Tofu, a Nigerian immigrant based in Barcelona, to a luxury flat in Malmo, Sweden.
Tofu’s main partners, Scott Henderson and Antony Campbell, received five-year and four-year prison sentences respectively.
Babatunde Aluko and Ali Hamed were jailed for three years and nine months each.
Jorge Ramos was sentenced to three years and Mark Brennan is serving 18 months, all for charges of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering.
All were jailed in Brussels in July.
The known cost of the fraud is approximately £1.5m but the full cost is believed to be £2m as many of the victims have not come forward. The company that Tofu fraudulently “cloned” was Norbert Mach in Vienna, Austria.
Norbert Mach were not available for comment, but they were keen to stress that any persons contacted by any individual claiming to represent their company must first contact the company directly at +43 1267 5345 or at email@example.com prior to making any investment to ensure that the representative is indeed an employee of Norbert Mach. Source :