Ilford woman accused of scamming neighbours out of more than £550,000 using a bogus barrister

Sheila Khatri, who is charged with defrauding her neighbours of more than £500,000, outside Snaresbr

Sheila Khatri, who is charged with defrauding her neighbours of more than £500,000, outside Snaresbrook Crown Court where her trial is ongoing. Picture: Central News - Credit: central news

An Ilford woman defrauded her neighbours out of more than £550,000 after promising them a slice of an online gambling jackpot, a court heard.

Sheila Khatri even drove her close friend to court, to introduce her to a bogus barrister as part of the scam, it is claimed.

Ms Khatri, 31, of Balfour Road, claimed her friend, Nasar Mirza, 29, had won a £46.5million prize and needed cash to unlock his winnings, jurors heard.

Deepak Kapoor, prosecuting, said the scam required “elaborate” pretences and forged legal documents.

Ms Khatri’s friend of more than 20 years, Sunita Varmar, allegedly lost £140,000 after she was shown fake documents, including a bank statement showing £46.5m in an account.

Three other neighbours were swindled of more than £400,000, it is claimed, including postman Paul Henderson, who paid Ms Khatri inheritance money left to him by a recently deceased aunt.

Ms Khatri is currently on trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court, charged with four counts of fraud, which she denies.

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Jurors were told that Mirza, of Wingate Road, Ilford, had admitted the charges at an earlier hearing.

Mr Kapoor told the jury: “They effectively strung along the four victims by making them believe there had been a large win of £46.5million.

“However, the money could not be released because charges had to be paid for the release of those monies.”

The court heard the victims were told they would be paid back whatever they parted with.

“They presented bogus documents in the form of bank statements, letters from court, from solicitors and a number of other documents,” Mr Kapoor continued.

“One common feature remains throughout, each of the victims was a friend or neighbour of the defendant.”

The court heard Ms Varmar had been friends with Ms Khatri for 20 years.

“The defendant told Ms Varmar about the win but told her to keep it a secret,” Mr Kapoor told jurors.

“This is where it got even more impressive.”

They showed her bank statements with £46.5million and 1 pound, it is claimed.

“An account had been opened a few months earlier with £1 balance,” Mr Kapoor explained.

Ms Varma was told Mirza had won the money and it was frozen in court, jurors heard.

“She initially gave Khatri £1,000 but as it unfolded it turned into more and more,” Mr Kapoor said.

“They drove her to Snaresbrook Crown Court where somebody came over and said ‘Hello’ and that person was presented as a barrister.

“They showed her letters from the Ministry of Justice, from the Financial Conduct Authority,” Mr Kapoor added.

The prosecution alleges that Ms Varmar ended up paying the pair £140,000.

Jurors were also told that Mr Henderson was allegedly scammed of £300,000, which was his inheritance given from his deceased aunt.

The court heard that Ms Khatri initially asked the postman for cash to pay for her father’s funeral.

But when Mr Henderson, who had known the defendant for five or six years as neighbours, became skeptical and asked her for proof Ms Khatri said her friend had won £43m in online gambling and needed money to release the funds, it is claimed.

“Each time they elaborated and they presented a further problem, more money was needed to release the funds, for example for taxes, VAT and court fees,” Mr Kapoor told the court.

“Over several months Paul Henderson made large amounts of cash withdrawals and transfers of money to various accounts. He took out loans and was strung along.”

The court heard Mr Henderson was told he would get £2m.

He even asked his partner, Debbie Short, to chip in, and she lost a total of £60,000, jurors were told.

Another neighbour, Joseph Smith, allegedly lost £56,800 in the swindle.

Jurors heard Mr Smith’s bank alerted police after spotting the large withdrawals.

When Ms Khatri learnt police had spoken to Mr Smith, who she had known for 20 years, she advised him to say it was a financial gift, it is claimed.

Officers found documents linked to the scam when they arrested Khatri at her Ilford home on January 7 this year, the court heard.

Ms Khatri denies the charges.

The trial continues.