Six men have been sentenced for their part in a huge “fraud factory” that sold utterly convincing bogus identity document sets to an estimated 11,000 customers for use in crimes such as identity theft.
British ringleader Jason Place, 42, set up the Confidential Access website from his Spanish home, offering high-quality fake documents, including bank statements, credit history print-outs, driving licenses, wage slips, and even utility bills.
To give the documents an air of authenticity, the gang set up a fake firm, National Chartered Accountancy Network, hijacking the identity of a real accountant to back up its references.
Not content with merely aiding identity theft, the gang moved into consultancy, helping to coach criminals buying a £5,500 ($8,500) ‘Platinum Profile’ in how to carry out crimes, backed up by a web chat forum for an inner circle taking out a VIP monthly subscription.
The gang even turned to extortion, threatening to wreck the credit profile of customers carrying out successful identity theft unless they paid over 50 percent of the takings from their first fraud.
British police now have the task of tracing the worst offenders from the thousands of Confidential Access website users, which is known to have caused at least £1 million of fraud in addition to the £11 million the site generated for its masters over three years of business.
"This was a sophisticated operation which has netted millions of pounds over the years. These cyber criminals not only provided the tools to commit fraud they instructed their clients in how to use them to make the maximum amount of money, whilst ruining real people's credit histories into the bargain,” said Metropolitan Police detective inspector, Tim Dowdeswell.
"We have already brought many of their students in crime to court and will continue to work with other police forces and partners to bring those people who bought and used these identities in their own frauds to justice."
The police haven’t said how wide the net might have to go to catch more of the site’s users but it is a fair assumption that their clientele came from many countries around Europe as well as the UK.
Jason Place was handed jail time of six years and nine months with fellow gang members Mark Powell-Richards, 59, and Allen Stringer, 57 – found guilty of operating the document printing operation - sentenced to 2 years and 3 months each, Accomplice Jaipal Singh, 31, was given 18 months.
Michael Daly, 68, and Arun Thear, 22, were given suspended sentences while co-ringleader Barry Sales was not prosecuted because he is terminally ill.