Ilford woman accused of swindling her neighbours of £550k claims she was also duped by elaborate scam

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, who is on trial accused of defrauding her neighbours of £550,000, has claimed she had no idea she was part of a scam.

Sheila Khatri, 50, of Balfour Road, is charged with four counts of fraud, for allegedly falsely promising her friends a slice of an online gambling jackpot.

Jurors were told at the start of the trial that Ms Khatri claimed her friend Nasar Mirza, 29, had won a £46.5million prize and needed cash to unlock his winnings from court.

It is claimed that the pair offered Ms Khatri’s friends huge sums of prize money, convincing them with forged documents, in return for providing the cash to release the winnings.

The prosecution alleges that Ms Khatri helped swindle her neighbours out of more than half a million pounds, with postman Paul Henderson reportedly paying her inheritance money left to him by his deceased aunt.

The crown also says Ms Khatri’s friend of more than 20 years, Sunita Varmar, lost £140,000 after she was allegedly shown fake documents by the defendant.

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

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Today at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Ms Khatri told jurors that she had no idea the multi-million pound jackpot was a scam, and claimed Mirza had tricked her.

The court heard of numerous text and Whatsapp messages between the pair where Ms Khatri asked Mirza: “When will the money be ready?”

She also claimed Mirza hand delivered forged letters purportedly to be from Job Centre Plus, the probation office and Snaresbrook Crown Court, which stated the winnings were being held at Snaresbrook.

“I remember seeing lots of documents like this,” Ms Khatri said.

“Mr Mirza would pick me up and drive me to the probation office, opposite Ilford police station.

“I would wait in the car and he went into the probation office. I would sit there for hours and he would come back with documents.”

Ms Khatri told the court she went into the probation office once and Mirza introduced her to someone called Sarah Jones, who he claimed worked there.

“My understanding was that it was going to the courts because he was at the probation office,” she added.

Ms Khatri told the jury Mr Mirza would often go to Snaresbrook Crown Court in his Bentley, however she never saw him go inside the building.

The court heard how one time Mirza, Ms Khatri and Ms Varmar – one of the alleged victims – went to the court and met a bogus barrister known as “Jay”.

The prosecution claims this was how Ms Khatri and Mirza tricked Ms Varmar into giving over £140,000, however the defendant denied this, saying she was also duped by the fake lawyer.

Paul Jackson, defending, asked Ms Khatri: “Did he [the barrister] come over and say hello?”

“He was just generally talking to Mr Mirza, he is a talkative guy like me.

“It was a lovely sunny day so the windows were open, and he [the bogus barrister] came over to the car and I said ‘hello, how are you?’, or something like that.”

Mr Jackson asked: “Would you ever do this to someone you had known for 20 years [Ms Varmar], if you knew this was a fraud?

Ms Khatri responded: “Never would, I never would, I have never asked her to borrow money in all the years I have known her, I would never do that.

“Mr Mirza always said it was the last payment, the last payment.”

The trial continues.