Ilford woman acquitted of defrauding neighbours of £550k

Snaresbrook Crown Court Picture: John Stillwell/PA

Snaresbrook Crown Court Picture: John Stillwell/PA - Credit: PA WIRE

A Ilford woman, accused of defrauding her friends and neighbours of more than £550,000, has been found not guilty after a seven day trial.

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

The prosecution claimed that Ms Khatri and her friend Nasar Mirza, 29, had said they had won a £46.5million prize and needed cash to unlock his winnings from court.

Mirza, of Wingate Road, Ilford, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to the same charges.

However after a day of deliberating jurors acquitted Ms Khatri yesterday at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

In her defence she had said Mirza, who had listed the defendant as his next of kin, had tricked her into helping get £550,000 from her neighbours by promising them huge sums of winnings.

Ms Khatri’s friend of 20 years Sunita Varmar was defrauded of £140,000.

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Mirza used forged documents including bank statements, court papers and letters from job centre and the probation office, to dupe the victims.

The jury were told how he hand delivered these documents to Ms Khatri’s house, and she unwittingly abetted him by tricking her friends.

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

“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 explained.

On another occaision Ms Khatri said Mirza took herself and Ms Varmar to Snaresbrook Crown Court, and introduced them to a bogus barrister to convince them of the scam.

When asked if she would ever have taken money of Ms Varmar if she had known it was a fraud, Ms Khatri responded: “I never would.”

She continued: “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.”

Mirza will be sentenced on September 25.