Five Britons were sentenced on Friday to a total of eight and a half years' imprisonment, for conspiring to defraud several leading Internet banks.
The Internet fraudsters were arrested by the National Crime Squad (NCS) in August 2000, following a six month investigation code-named Operation Skoda. The case was heard by Judge Tyrer at Aylesbury Crown Court, who passed sentences ranging from 60 hours' community service to 30 months' imprisonment.
Any crime involving a conspiracy charge could potentially receive a life sentence. "In terms of fraud, no one can be specific about the maximum sentence... but I think the officers were satisfied with the sentences," said an NCS spokeswoman. The four men and one woman were sentenced under the Criminal Justice Act.
The two men from Milton Keynes, Jonathan Ellis, 28, and Christian Palmer, 28, were sentenced to 12 months and two years respectively. Lisa Ramsey, 23, received a 15-month sentence. William Ross, 37, pleaded guilty at an earlier date and will be imprisoned for 30 months. Richard Henderson, 25, had also pleaded guilty, and was let off with 60 hours of community service on the basis that he had already been remanded in custody for 18 months.
All members of the Internet fraud ring were found guilty of applying for credit cards with six Internet banks using false identities. They are thought to have defrauded the financial institutions to the tune of £100,000, but according to NCS, the felons had the potential to cause a "phenomenal" amount of damage.
This was a "thoroughly dishonest, premeditated, sophisticated and sustained conspiracy," said Judge Tyrer, in his sentencing speech.
The Internet bank Egg was affected by the fraud, along with Smile, Marbles, Sony Card and MBNA International Bank. NCS confirms that no customer accounts were accessed or compromised by the fraudsters.
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