TWO fraudsters who stole nearly £80,000 from credit cards in a “devious scheme” have been jailed.
Robert James Murray and John Paul Ward were each handed two-year sentences at Chester Crown Court yesterday.
They spent seven months in 2012 obtaining credit cards and contacting their owners posing as security officers from various banks, to access PINs so they could withdraw huge amounts of cash before the cards were cancelled.
All of their offences in Chester were committed at Craxton Wood Hotel.
Out of a total of 21 offences committed nationwide, the duo managed to acquire £78,619.76.
The court heard how between February and September the duo, from the Coventry area, were travelling across the country to hotels and conference centres including a number in Chester.
Gareth Roberts, prosecuting, said Murray, 51, and Ward, 53, played a “significant” role within a wider operation and their primary roles were to withdraw the cash from accounts once the details and pin numbers had been obtained. For this, they would have been rewarded “significantly”.
It was heard that how on one occasion, the pair visited a hotel and asked to use a sewing kit from the reception desk.
The pair would return to the desk moments later, claiming that on visiting reception they had forgotten their room key and locked themselves out of their room and would ask for access to a room.
It was this way they would be able to steal the credit cards and withdraw funds. With their take of the cash, Murray and Ward spent money on expensive watches and travelling.
Recorder of Chester, Judge Elgan Edwards, described the syndicate as “well organised and deliberately executed”.
Defending Murray, Charnjit Jutla, said his client was not a “classic candidate” to appear before the court and had been doing well financially for a long period of time before he fell in to debt and had little money available.
Mr Jutla added that Murray had misused cocaine around the time of the offences and had been assaulted by his supplier who was in pursuit of payment.
Murray was the “scapegoat” of the operation and his role wasn’t “the most significant” in the conspiracy, according to his counsel.
Speaking on behalf of Ward, Bozzie Sheffi, said her client had been in long-term employment up until 2005 before falling ill which caused him to stop working.
As a result, this put a strain on Ward’s marriage which ended and subsequently saw him move in to a flat on benefits.
Miss Sheffi added that Ward couldn’t support himself on benefits and when the opportunity appeared to earn money, he took it.
According to his counsel, Ward had accepted his error and was “remorseful.”
Handing down the sentence, Judge Edwards said: “You were both involved and played a significant role in a planned, deliberate and signifcant attempt to steal credit cards and use them.
“You were part of a devious scheme to phone peoplem up pretending to be security when you were dishonestly using them yourselves.
“This was big money and professional crime.”