Criminals ordered to repay £21-million of ill gotten gains (10 Apr 2019)

An elite team of financial investigators are reclaiming millions of pounds worth of ill-gotten gains from criminals across operating in West Yorkshire and beyond.

In the past year (financial) West Yorkshire Police's Financial Investigation Unit and the North East Asset Recovery Team has seen criminals ordered to repay over £21million.

The work is part of West Yorkshire Police's Programme Precision - a new joint crackdown involving police, partners and members of the public to tackle serious and organised crime which costs the UK economy around £37 billion a year.

The £21 million is a record breaking amount for the unit which also covers the North East of England through the Regional Asset Recovery Team through an office in Sunderland.

Ramona Senior leads the team:

"These investigations can be extremely complex," she said. "Often other Forces will prosecute the case and we will provide expert evidence as we reclaim some of their ill-gotten gains.

"In cases like this it is important to remember the victims and what they have suffered. In many cases the offending is still quite raw and led to the collapse of some businesses and the loss of jobs.

"I am very proud of my team and the work they do, day in, day out to take money off of criminals. They relentlessly pursue criminals for what they owe and stop at nothing to make sure they settle their debt to society.

"We often find that criminals are prepared to serve their time in jail but hate having their ill-gotten gains taken from them.

"Money seized from criminals is reinvested back into initiatives benefitting the community. Money was used to fund the 'Get Safe 'n' Away' Gang Prevention Programme in which a former probation worker visits primary schools and talks to children about the dangers of getting involved in gang crime. The Police and Crime Commissioner also helped to fund this work and money confiscated also helps to fund the PCC's Safer Communities Fund.

The Safer Communities Fund was launched by Police and Crime Commissioner Mark Burns-Williamson to help voluntary groups, community groups, charities and partners keep their communities safe and feeling safe by awarding financial grants.

West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Mark Burns-Williamson said:

"The positive action that West Yorkshire Police undertakes in seizing criminal assets cannot be underestimated, especially in terms of what it means for our local communities.

"Their relentless pursuit of those who bring misery to victims and communities means large sums of money are then available through my Safer Communities Fund (SCF).

"In the last financial year alone, I have been able to offer 3 grant rounds to the tune of £629,368, as a direct result of what is seized under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

"It means that we can tackle some of the most significant threats facing our county through the support of local groups and organisations, who are dedicated to 'keeping West Yorkshire safe and feeling safe' which is the vision of my Police and Crime Plan.

"For instance, we all know that the subject of knife crime remains high on the agenda and I have been able to use the fund to respond by specifically setting a theme of addressing serious violence.

"In Kirklees, it has seen the RADYCAL project receive £1770 to support young people, offering activities and youth club provision during school holidays. It is also allowing the group to create a piece of theatre and workshops dealing with the issue of knife crime.

"Likewise, the Huddersfield Giants Community Trust benefitted from £5,000, which uses the power of sport to change behaviours. In particular, it has enabled them to provide a series of assemblies and workshops in primary and secondary schools on the impact of knife crime.

"In Leeds, £4,800 has been pumped into the LED Community Foundation to deliver 'Stop the Knives = Young Lives' sessions. They work with students during term time to increase awareness and understanding of the dangers of carrying a knife.

"Ultimately it is this comprehensive partnership approach, from enforcement right through to education and engagement that is making a real difference to people's lives enabled through the great work of the Financial Investigation Unit and my Safer Communities Fund which has now benefited more than 500 West Yorkshire projects since 2014."

Successful cases for West Yorkshire Police's Financial Investigation Unit and the North East Asset Recovery Team, include:

On Tuesday (2 April) a trio of fraudsters were told at Teeside Crown Court they have three months to repay nearly £7million. Peter and Claire Hall (aged 48 and 42), originally of Alton (Hampshire) were ordered to pay back nearly £6m between them (£5,949,321)

After an investigation by Trading Standards and the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team the Halls were found guilty of conspiracies to defraud at Teeside Crown Court. Peter Hall was sentenced to a total of 15 years (8 years and 8 months in prison for the first fraud, one year and four months of a previously suspended sentence to be served consecutively and a further 5 years, also to be served consecutively, for committing an identical fraud whilst on bail awaiting trial for the first fraud).

Claire Hall was sentenced to four years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to defraud. They were both jailed in July 2017 with Peter Hall getting the additional five years in March 2018.

They have three months to repay the debt or face an extra 10 years in prison. The debt will never go away until settled in full.

Kerry Mills (50) of Camberley was sentenced to five years in prison in March 2018 for conspiracy to defraud, pervert the course of public justice and money laundering. Also has three months to pay back £886,490 or face an extra six years in jail. Again, the debt will never be settled until paid in full.

As part of operation four other people were ordered to repay a total of £219,021.92 or face a combined 51 months and 28 days in prison

Other large confiscations include:

Two Halifax men aged 34 and 32 were ordered to pay £381,295 and £383,070 respectively after both being jailed in 2016 for nine years. Both were found guilty of offences including conspiracy to handle stolen goods and money laundering. They were given three months in April 2018 to pay the money back or face an extra four years in prison.

In November 2017 a 48 year old Scottish woman and a 42 year old man from London were sentenced to five years and seven years respectively and a 35-year-old woman to 33 months imprisonment for their parts in fraud offences committed against a Huddersfield store. They were ordered to repay £222,233, £662,202 and £51,265 on 6 April 2018 (48 year old and 42 year old) and 26 October 2018 (35 year old). They were all given three months to pay their debt or face between them an extra 13 years in prison (5 years, 7 years and a year).

© Copyright West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner 2019