West Sussex residents among those conned in £310,000 fraud

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A network of organised criminals committing fraud offences in excess of £310,000 has been unravelled following an investigation by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit (SEROCU).

The fraud offences involved a total of 34 victims, including people living in Southwick, Burgess Hill, Upper Beeding, Crawley, Sompting and Steyning.

Ten people pleaded to, or were found guilty of, a variety of fraud and money laundering offences.

Operation Knock investigated incidents between October 2013 and September 2014 whereby victims had been told that their neighbours’ property had been flooded with raw sewage originating from under their property.

The victims were told that they needed to hire specialist equipment to resolve the issue and to pay a deposit which would then be refunded.

Lead investigator DC Matt Wilson, from SEROCU’s Regional Fraud Team said: “This group were part of a more sophisticated network that intentionally targeted the most vulnerable people.

“Once they found someone that would give them money they repeatedly targeted them with a barrage of lies and deceit to extract further funds.

“The people convicted have all admitted, or been convicted of, arranging these offences, or allowing their bank accounts to be used to receive and dissipate the funds from these crimes. Without these willing participants or others like them these offences could not occur.

“This should act as a deterrent to anyone else tempted to earn some extra money by turning a blind eye to these crime, we will investigate and bring them before the court.”

All ten people are due to be sentenced over two days on December 11 and 8 January 8.

George Wickens Junior, 24, of Iveagh Crescent, Newhaven, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime between 31 July 2013 and 30 September 2014.

George Wickens, 52, of Batts Bridge Road, Maresfield, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.

Lee Farrington, 22, of Churchill Road, Lewes and Angelia Wickens, 31, of Parklands, Maresfield pleaded guilty to money laundering offences (conspiracy to conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property).

James Cavanagh, 25, of Parklands, Maresfield; Daryl Hayley, 23, of Beeches Way, Faygate; Martin Jones, 26, of Newbury Road, Crawley; Paul Bryson, 24, of Old Farm Close, Haywards Heath and Alfie Robinson, 23, of Chanctonbury Road, Burgess Hill pleaded guilty to a count of conspiracy to launder the proceeds of crime between 31 July 2013 and 30 September 2014.

In a trial which lasted eight days at Hove Trial Centre, James Cavanagh was also found guilty by a unanimous jury of conspiracy to commit fraud.

During the same trial, Martin Suckling, aged 52, of Churchill Road, Smallfield was found guilty by a unanimous jury of three counts of acquiring criminal property.

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