A 42 year-old man from Roath in Cardiff and a 43 year old woman from Ruislip, Middlesex have been sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court after being found guilty of a number of frauds worth more than £500,000 and Money Laundering more than £50,000 from the proceeds of crime.
Premsaran Patel was sent to prison for four years six months and Smurti Amin received a 16 month prison sentence suspended for two years.
Financial Investigator Lee Jones of Tarian’s regional asset recovery team (RART), said: “Operation Dogstar has been a long term money laundering investigation by the RART supported by colleagues from South Wales Police, HMRC, Solicitors Regulatory Authority and the National Crime Agency. Today’s sentencing is the culmination of a number of investigations involving numerous defendants and a number of contested trials.
“Seven defendants have previously been dealt with by the courts, and there have been confiscation hearings under the Proceeds of Crime Act and the Criminal Justice Act to recover the proceeds of crime.
“This investigation should also be a warning for those professionals such as solicitors and accountants that the RART will take action against officers who do not carry out their anti-money laundering duties seriously”.
The investigation, which was carried out over a number of years by officers from Tarian, the regional organised crime unit for southern Wales supported by specialist officers from South Wales Police Major Crime Investigation Team, uncovered a number of frauds worth hundreds of thousands of pounds and attempts to pervert the course of justice.
The investigation highlighted that the pair had used forged documents, sham companies and the services of a solicitor who failed in his duties as a gatekeeper to prevent money laundering.
The frauds began in 2003 when the pair together with another woman formed a company called Woodridge Real Estate and Lettings which claimed to be a property development company but was in reality a sham company used to support fraudulent mortgage applications.
The pair first used forged wage slips to obtain a re-mortgage on Patel’s family home at North Road, Cardiff. Patel claimed to be employed as the postmaster at Borehamwood Post Office earning £42,000 per year when in fact he was unemployed.
Their solicitor was aware of this but did not inform the bank of the fraud. This fraudulent mortgage released over £109,000 which was used to purchase other properties.
Amin then used forged wage slips to show that she was employed by their sham company, Woodridge, to claim she was earning £85,000 per year when in fact she was working as a HR officer for the London Borough of Hounslow at the time. As a result of this fraud they obtained a mortgage loan of £231,000 from a Building Society. Amin used this loan to purchase her home at Victoria Road, Ruislip.
Premsaran Patel and Smurti Amin went on to build a portfolio of properties in Cardiff and in the Northolt and Ruislip areas.
In January 2010 Patel secured a loan of £210,000 from Nat West Bank to purchase a property on Cathedral Road, Cardiff. The loan was granted on the basis that the premises had two leases for tenants of the property which at the time was an unoccupied office building which would generate a rental income of about £32,000.00 per year for at least 10 years.
However, both leases were forgeries and neither tenant had signed leases and had no intention of moving into the Cathedral Road building.
Shortly after the purchase he made an application to change of use for the property, converting it from commercial use to a home of multiple occupancy and used it for student accommodation.
After the fraud came to light Patel was arrested and interviewed, he answered no comment to all questions and gave no explanation for the forged documents supplied to the bank.
On the 19th March 2018 Patel pleaded not guilty to this offence at Cardiff Crown Court and a trial was arranged for later in the year. However, both Patel and Amin pleaded guilty to other offences of fraud and money laundering in relation to a number of other properties owned by them.
On Monday 4th February 2019 a jury at Cardiff Crown Court found Patel guilty of both counts of fraud and attempting to pervert the course of justice.