Essex: Police arrest 16 in £1million fraud operation
- Credit: Contributed
A major investigation in to the defrauding of more than £1million from vulnerable older people in Clacton has seen 16 people arrested - and it has emerged there could be dozens more victims.
A team of 65 officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate (SCD) executed warrants at addresses in Colchester and Clacton yesterday, which resulted in the arrests.
The SCD, working with Essex County Council Trading Standards and Adult Social Care, has been investigating fraudulent activity in excess of £1m since December last year and detectives have built cases around 39 victims, ranging from 65 to 99 years of age.
Assistant Chief Constable Gary Beautridge, head of the Kent and Essex SCD, said: “Over the past seven months my officers have been investigating a series of cases which appear to be the work of an organised crime group taking advantage of the elderly and vulnerable and exploiting them for criminal gain.
“During the investigation we have spoken to around 140 people who have assisted us in building a case to the point where we have now been able to make a significant amount of arrests.
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“The offences we are looking at basically amount to the financial abuse of the most vulnerable members of our society.
“The evidence would suggest that these vulnerable people have groomed and then preyed upon by a group whose sole intention appears to be to line their own pockets.” Police have arrested six men on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, one woman and one man on suspicion of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and eight people on suspicion of money laundering.
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Last night they were in custody in police stations in north Essex.
Roger Walter, the county council’s cabinet member for trading standards, said: “The initial interviews made clear the extent of the activity was in excess of £1m but it could be considerably more.
“What is more worrying is that a lot of these crimes don’t get reported. The victims are very often on their own and fear their relatives will think they are not able to live on their own any longer.
“By making these arrests we hope other victims, which could be several, will come forward.”
Anyone who believes they have been a victim of rogue trading should call Essex County Council Trading Standards on 08454 040506.