Cheque-book fraud aimed at conning church school out of thousands of pounds

NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.
NEWS from Nottingham Crown Court.

Two fraudsters tried to con a church school in Bulwell out of thousands of pounds in a cheque-book scam, a court heard.

The scam entailed one of the men visiting branches of Lloyds Bank and, while his accomplice waited outside in a car, paying into his account cheques totalling more than £7,200 ostensibly written out to him by St Mary’s Church Of England Primary School.

However, they were arrested when bank staff alerted the police after becoming suspicious as he tried to withdraw £4,500 only moments later.

Jordan Cooley, 18, of Calder Walk, Bulwell, and Mohammed Khan, 28, of Radcliffe Road, West Bridgford, pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court to four counts of fraud by presenting false cheques to a bank.

Kevin Jones, prosecuting, explained to the court that a new cheque book was sent to the finance manager of the the Ragdale Road school on Monday, February 23 last year.

“It seemed intact and all the cheques appeared to be present, “ said Mr Jones. “But then three particular cheques were tendered at various branches of Lloyds.”

It is not known how the cheques fell into the hands of Cooley and Khan. But later that same day, Cooley paid a cheque for £2,398.20 into a branch in Birmingham. And the next morning, within a ten-minute period, he paid in cheques for £2,489.92 and £2,320 at Nottingham city centre branches on Carlton Hill and Parliament Street.

“Lloyds has a policy whereby the money from cheques paid in over the counter becomes available immediately,” said Mr Jones. “And 14 minutes later, at 10.50 am, Cooley went to another branch, on Old Market Square, and asked to withdraw £4,500 using his debit card.

“Because of the unusual activity on the account, it was flagged up and management contacted the police, who went to the bank.

“Cooley became visibly upset and pointed to a vehicle being driven by Khan that was outside. Khan said he was just waiting for a friend, but both men were arrested.

“A search of the car found another cheque, paying-in slips, security details and documents relating to Cooley.”

Initially, Cooley said he had been bullied into the scam by Khan and even claimed that if he didn’t go along with it, he would be killed.

But text messages between the pair showed they had been friends for several weeks before the cheques were paid in and that Cooley was “a willing participant in a joint enterprise”. One message from Khan told Cooley: “If they say anything, stay calm and professional. Just say you need the money for a project.”

For Cooley, Lisa Hardy, mitigating, said he had been in care throughout his teenage years after suffering “physical, sexual and emotional abuse”.

He had financial debts and difficulty paying his rent and met Khan because he was known to his former girlfriend. “He is keen to look forward and put this behind him,” said Mrs Hardy.

For Khan, Tariq Hussain, mitigating, said this was the first time he had been on the wrong side of the law and had learned his lesson.

“He admits he did wrong and has expressed his remorse for an offence that has placed a strain on his elderly mother and his new marriage,” said Mr Hussain.

“He has since found out what it is like to be on the receiving end of crime because he himself has been subjected to a family burglary in which cash and jewellery were stolen.”

After reading pre-sentence reports by probation officers, the judge, Recorder Michael Stephens, sentenced Cooley and Khan to community orders, with the former told to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work and the latter 240 hours. Both were ordered to pay £450 costs.

“Both of you were naive at the very least,” said the judge. “But you were determined to make sure these cheques were cashed.”

To Cooley, he added: “You are an immature, young man who has contempt for the system. I appreciate you have had a tough time, but it now time to man up.”

To Khan, he added: “I was concerned that you exerted a bad influence on Cooley, but I am now satisfied that was not the case.”