Two Brighton men, already sentenced for money laundering in a horse race betting fraud, have now been ordered to begin to repay some of their £3.5 million criminal profits.
And they may have to pay yet more if police find further illegally acquired assets.
Daig Head, 41, Fitch Drive, Brighton, and Lee Taylor, also 41, of Montpelier Road, Brighton, were given confiscation orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) during a hearing at Hove Crown Court on Monday (3 June).
Head was ordered to pay his currently available assets of £2,114.78 as compensation spread equally between seven victims. He has three months to pay with a default sentence of 60 days, and would still have to pay even if that extra sentence was served.
Taylor was ordered to pay his currently available assets of £61,784.41 of which £29,285.50 will be paid as compensation to his three victims who will get their money back in full. He was given three months with a default sentence of 12 months and would also still have to pay even if that extra sentence was served.
But their liability does not end there. Police keep records of all confiscation orders where the full benefit amount isn’t immediately available and regularly check to identify any additional assets which have been obtained since the original order was made. If so, additional orders will be sought.
Both men had been sentenced at the same court on 11 February, having each pleaded guilty to money laundering. Head was sentenced to seven years imprisonment and Taylor was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment suspended for two years.
Detective Chief Inspector Andy Richardson of the Sussex Police Economic Crime Unit said; "This was a complex case of money laundering, which we believe they had been operating for about five years, and which came to us via national Action Fraud in November 2015.
"It was investigated by Detective Constable Duncan Lloyd of our Brighton Investigations team, working with the CPS. Once the pair had been sentenced in February one of our expert financial investigators completed an in-depth examination of their dealings, and now we have also been able to secure these court orders, again working with the CPS.
"Head took the lead in contacting known horse racing gamblers and managed to get them to place bets into the accounts of himself and Taylor, but then withdrew the money in cash.
"To keep the fraud going Head would then ask for more money from the gamblers to recoup their “losses”, or said the “winnings” were tied up in an off-shore company so they needed an advance fee to release it."
Several victims were identified during the investigation,with Taylor being charged in relation to three victims, and Head being charged in relation to seven.
Head appeared to be the main person involved, with Taylor allowing his account to be used for the money to pass through.
All the victims in this case, who came from across the UK, bet on horse racing through online or telephone accounts. All received some form of unsolicited texts from anonymous “tipsters” offering initially free tips encouraging the victim to bet on a particular race. If this was successful the complainant was often contacted and encouraged to pay a small amount for continuing tips. In some cases they were then encouraged to invest in a “syndicate”, offering unrealistically huge returns on their investment. Others were told that they had supposedly huge wins on a particular bet or “treble” bet, and then were been asked to pay a percentage of the winnings to release the payment. Once the percentage payment was sent no such winnings were forthcoming.
DCI Richardson said: ""The court found that that Head and Taylor had benefited by amounts greater than those they are currently required to repay. However it is important to understand that we keep records of all existing confiscation orders where the full benefit amount isn’t immediately available and regularly check to identify any additional assets which have been obtained since the original order was made.
"We can then apply to the court for an increase in the original order. We can also seek the help of the South East Regional Asset Confiscation Enforcement (ACE) team, part of the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU) who will contact the offenders to help identify more assets.
"Meanwhile, even orders such as those just granted still send the important message that we will always go after criminal assets even beyond conviction, to try to return them lawful and useful purposes.
"Funds seized by the courts through POCA confiscation or cash forfeiture orders go to the central Government exchequer - if they are not paid in compensation to specific victims, as was done with some of the funds in this case.
However a proportion of the centrally seized funds is then returned to law enforcement. Similar amounts go the CPS and the court system.
"POCA-derived funding that returns to this force is distributed equally between the Police and Crime Commissioner and the Chief Constable. Sussex Police receive 50% cash back from cash forfeitures and 18.75% cash back from confiscation orders such as these.
"We fund Financial Investigators and Financial Intelligence Officers from part of these amounts to help continue our valuable work in seizing criminal assets, with the remainder being used to support local community crime reduction and diversion projects."
For advice on protecting yourself against phone and online fraud of all kinds see the Sussex Police website here.