Five men jailed for 28 years for multi-million pound international money laundering network based in Woodford Green
PUBLISHED: 17:03 08 November 2017
Five men have been sentenced to 28 years imprisonment for their roles in laundering at least £6.9million from a base in Woodford Green.
Iurie Mereacre, 37, ran the service from his home in The Broadway, along with associates Iurie Bivol, Serghei Bivol, both also of The Broadway, and Ryingota Gincota.
Over a three year period, the group set up and controlled around 400 bank accounts, receiving stolen funds into one account, then dispersing smaller amounts to other accounts.
This process would be repeated several times to disguise the source of the money before it was transferred back to cyber criminals in eastern Europe.
Barclays personal banking manager Nilesh Sheth, 53, was instrumental in the opening of a large number of “mule” accounts, using false ID and address documents.
At the Old Bailey last week, Mereacre was sentenced to ten years in prison while, Iurie Bivol, 36, was sentenced to seven years.
Sheth, Gincota, 28, of Broomhill Road, and Serghei Bivol, 31, were sentenced to four years, three years and eight months, and three years and five months respectively.
Prior to their arrests on November 3 2016, the group was under surveillance by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and was seen meeting with Sheth on numerous occasions at the bank, in restaurants and car parks.
The Recorder reported on the arrests at the time, when the NCA carried out a number of raids in Woodford Green.
Detectives recovered multiple mobile phones, financial ledgers, and 70 mule packs from Mereacre’s flat.
The mule packs contained ID and banking documents, bank cards and accounts’ security information.
Officers also seized a hand-written step-by-step guide to money laundering, which contained instructions on how to move money to accounts at various banks and notes on which accounts had been blocked by bank security.
In a search of Sheth’s house in Redwoods Close, Buckhurst Hill, officers recovered over £16,000 in cash and nine mobile phones hidden in various places, including under the kitchen sink and tucked behind the sofa cushions.
A number of the phones had been used to communicate with Mereacre, organising meetings and payment.
In September following various hearings, all five men had pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy.
Mike Hulett, NCA National Cyber Crime Unit, said: “This sentencing is the culmination of a complex, international investigation into professional money laundering networks here in the UK.
“Criminals rely heavily on the services provided by individuals like Sheth who abused his position at the bank to knowingly open sham accounts to assist Mereacre’s network with laundering millions.
“With the support of the banking industry and law enforcement partners in the UK, the US, Romania and Moldova, we have successfully shut down these networks, causing major disruption to organised cyber criminals who will no longer have access to their stolen profits.”
Rose-Marie Franton, from the CPS, said: “These men deliberately and persistently set about transferring millions of pounds of stolen money out of the UK to eastern Europe.
“Working closely with NCA investigators, the CPS presented a strong case with the result that all the defendants admitted their guilt and have today been sentenced.
“The evidence we gathered showed how Nilesh Sheth abused his position as a bank employee for personal gain by facilitating the laundering the criminal proceeds of an organised crime group both within the UK and across borders.”
A Barclays spokeswoman added: “This is a rare occasion where an individual deliberately exploited our systems.
“We have worked with and supported the NCA with this investigation and welcome the outcome of proceedings. Barclays will always support law enforcement in identifying criminal activity and bringing prosecutions.”