MANCHESTER: A man who made more than £1.4 million from fraudulent schemes and falsely claimed to be a victim of fraud himself, has been jailed for nine years today. On 14 August 2018, at Manchester Crown Court, Hassan Butt, 38 of Sheepfoot Lane, Prestwich, Manchester was found five counts of fraud by false representation; one count of fraudulent trading; one count of conspiracy to remove criminal property from the UK; one count of possessing criminal property and one count of being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion of VAT, the Met Police has reported.
Butt implemented a range of money-making deceptions between May 2012 and May 2015. When suspicions were raised about his activity, he audaciously claimed to be a victim of fraud himself in order to hide his criminality and carry out yet more scams.
Butt’s activity came to light in 2014 when eBay’s Fraud Investigation Team carried out due diligence checks on his company “MiGenie” and became suspicious. Butt claimed to be selling clothing and electronic devices to eBay customers but a number of them complained they had not received the goods they purchased.
In total, around 3,000 customers spent £1,163,646 million pounds on items that never materialised. Butt embarked on a cover story by alleging to Greater Manchester Police that he had been defrauded by his cousin. He falsely claimed that his cousin had taken all the money from the MiGenie business account and stolen all the stock as well.
The fraud was referred to the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, which was considered the most appropriate team to investigate at the time. Financial investigators within the command established that Butt had subsequently used the cover story of being defrauded when scamming a number of loans companies and a credit card company.
Having taken out £47,520 in loans and credit, he told the companies he was unable to make repayments as he had been a victim of fraud, and provided a police-issued crime reference number to add weight to his story.
In the course of their investigation, detectives uncovered further fraudulent schemes carried out by Butt and an associate in 2013. Butt and Taiub Amin-Dar, 35 (06.04.83) of Heywood Street, Bury had purchased gold bullion and iPads online. Upon receiving the goods, they contacted the suppliers, claiming not to have received the items in order to receive refunds or replacements.
It is believed the men made around £700 through this particular fraud although they attempted to claim a further £4,000 in refunds.
Simultaneously to the Met Police investigation, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) launched an investigation into MiGenie, establishing that Butt owed around £200,000 in unpaid VAT and corporation tax.
Armed with significant evidence, detectives arrested Butt and Dar on 23 September 2015 and searched their home addresses. Dar pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation on 13 July 2017 at Manchester Crown Court. He was issued with a 200-hour community service order on Monday, 1 October.
When sentencing Butt today, Judge Anthony Cross QC commended a Met Police detective for her work leading the “rare and sizeable investigation”.
Commander Clarke Jarrett, head of the Met Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: “This was a multi-million pound fraud which the Met Police, Greater Manchester Police, eBay and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs worked together to identify and prevent continuing.
“It’s not clear what the money was ultimately intended for but I have no doubt in my mind that these men would have carried on with their scams for as long as they could get away with them.”
Commander Jarrett had this advice for people buying goods from online auction sites: “When shopping online, always pay via the auction site every time and don’t click on links the seller sends to you. Never pay by money transfers but instead use a recognised service such as PayPal, which protects your money until you’ve resolved any problems with the seller.
Butt was also sentenced today in relation to a number of charges of perverting the course of justice, investigated by Greater Manchester Police. Anyone who believes they have been a victim of fraud is urged to call Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040.