Student 'Insider' faces jail for scam

PUBLISHED: 18:51 04 April 2008 | UPDATED: 21:04 26 October 2009

A TEENAGE bank worker who helped fraudsters fleece her wealthy customers out of nearly £500,000 in an 'alarmingly simple' sting was today warned she faces years in jail. University of Hertfordshire student Ruth Akinyemi leaked vital details including date

A TEENAGE bank worker who helped fraudsters fleece her wealthy customers out of nearly £500,000 in an "alarmingly simple" sting was today warned she faces years in jail.

University of Hertfordshire student Ruth Akinyemi leaked vital details including dates of birth and account passwords from the Barclays bank computer system.

Armed with the insider's information, the thieves posed as real customers and emptied the best accounts of "vast sums of money" before splashing out on expensive jewellery and holidays.

They targeted seven victims, including doctors, during the nine-month scam between July 2004 and April 2005.

One victim lost almost £400,000 in just four days.

Akinyemi, now 22, was 19 when she first tapped in to customer accounts at the Enfield branch in north London.

She was working part-time as a cashier just two days a week, while completing an economics degree at the Hatfield-based university.

Despite her vital involvement in the fraud and the £500,000 windfall, she claimed she was paid just £8,000.

Akinyemi was today (Friday) convicted of conspiracy to steal by a jury at the Old Bailey after five hours' deliberation.

Ordering pre-sentence reports to be prepared, Judge Anthony Morris QC said: "A substantial custodial sentence is likely.

"The most likely outcome is an immediate term of imprisonment."

The court was told how after one victim, Essex doctor Susan Raymond, lost £397,000, an anonymous caller tipped off bank bosses that Akinyemi was the insider.

She was suspended, but later reinstated following an internal investigation and moved to the St Albans City branch, where she continued to plunder accounts.

Computer records showed her personal ID number logging in to the system and "digging around".

All but one of the victims lived less than a mile apart in north London and it was likely one of the gang was intercepting post in the area to recovered PINs and passwords.

Prosecutor Miles Bennett said: "The way the scheme would work once Akinyemi had entered in to the computer and looked at people's details, is the information would be passed on and the fraudulent caller would then ring up posing as a customer and would be able to give the unique information making someone in the call centre believe they are talking to the true customer."

The account of Dr Raymond from Buckhurst Hill, was raided four times between August 2 and 5, 2004.

In January 2005, Akinyemi accessed the account of a female doctor living in St Paul's Place in Islington.

She then began to search "on order" after being handed a list of wealthy names and addresses from London's fashionable N1 postcode.

Within a minute of one call a fraudster called the bank to set up telephone banking and eight days later £98,000 was transferred from the victim's account.

Once received by the fraudsters it was immediately withdrawn or used to pay for goods, including a £5,000 spree at Goldsmiths the jewellers.

In February 2005 a professor living in the same road as the doctor lost £3,000.

Two neighbours in Heavens Tree Close, Islington, were also caught out by Akinyemi .

Although the operators of the fraud have never been traced, the computer system revealed the involvement of a bank insider.

Mr Bennett said: "This is a case, say the prosecution, which demonstrates, at a time when identity theft is high on everyone's agenda, how alarmingly simple it is to steal people's money - when you have got people's personal banking details.

"The Crown say these people managed to move from a number of accounts, seven account holders in all, something in the region of half a million pounds.

"It is breathtakingly simple providing you have someone on the inside."

He added: "Investigators were able to go through computer records and were able to identify the accounts Ruth Akinyemi had accessed using her ID name and password."

Akinyemi, of Park Road, Enfield, north London, denied conspiracy to steal.

She admitted her log-in details had been used but insisted someone else had done so.

* The fraudster was convicted at a retrial after the first jury failed to reach a verdict.

Allen Strong, 30, a gang member who allowed cash to be paid into his account, was convicted at that trial.

He used £3,500 to pay off his Barclaycard, spent £5,000 to settle outstanding mortgage payments and took a further £5,000 in cash.

Strong, of Neville Road, Croydon, south London, was convicted of acquiring £14,500 of criminal property and converting that amount of criminal property.

Associate Thomas Sessazi splashed out £3,500 with travel agents Lunn Poly after banking more than £11,800 and admitted acquiring and converting criminal property.

All three will be sentenced in the week of April 28.

Akinyemi was granted unconditional bail.

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