A fraudster at the helm of a criminal gang that defrauded high street banks out of almost £8m by taking out mortgages on properties they did not own has been jailed.
Mohammed Asif Younas, 50, was handed a seven year prison term last week at Southwark Crown Court. He had previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to money launder in November 2011.
The court had heard how Younas, operating under the alias Mahmoud Ali, was director of bogus Montague Mason Solicitors. He submitted false paperwork to Birmingham Midshires and Abbey banks in connection with 33 fraudulent mortgage applications in a two month period.
His fellow gang members had previously identified suitable properties across the south-east to use for false mortgage applications – with the homeowners unaware of the crime.
The fraudulent mortgages were finalised when false paperwork was completed by the solicitors, and signed by Younas, including the Certificates of Title requesting the banks release the funds.
Once the deals were signed-off and the funds transferred, the stolen money was quickly transferred from the solicitor’s account into a network of bank accounts,controlled by Younas and the rest of the gang. The money was then withdrawn in cash.
Det Supt Bob Wishart, of the City of London Police, says: “Younas is a sophisticated fraudster who hid behind an alias to con banks and evade police.
“His meticulous planning and precise execution of this fraud ensured maximum gains– but the scale of his crime resulted in the lengthy sentence passed.
“Mortgage fraud damages the UK’s economy and therefore affects us all. As the National Lead Force for Fraud, we actively go after people who orchestrate and commit this crime and continue to work with the banks to ensure people can have faith in the integrity of the mortgage system”.
In March 2009 Abbey and HBOS asked the City of London Police to look into the activities of Montague Mason Solicitors, based in Essex.
Working in collaboration with the two banks, detectives uncovered an extensive criminal network that led them to execute search warrants at addresses across the UK in June 2009.
Four men – Khawar Khan, Imran Mirza, Nadeem Mirza and Farhan Khan – all part of the same gang as Younas, were arrested during the warrants. They were subsequently jailed having pleaded guilty to numerous fraud related offences in December 2009.
But ‘Mahmood Ali’ remained elusive, until detectives working with the DVLA were able to match ‘Ali’s’ driving licence image to one with the name of Mohammed Asif Younas.
That licence proved to be legitimate and detectives now had Younas’ home address in Croydon and he was quickly arrested.
On searching Younas’ home, detectives recovered more false documents and items linking him to his alias and as a result he was charged with numerous fraud offences.
Younas was sentenced to seven years imprisonment for conspiracy to defraud and four-and-a-half years for conspiracy to money launder, to run concurrently.