A ‘CALLOUS’ gang acted as 'cash mules' to launder money stolen from vulnerable elderly people, depriving one woman of her life savings.

Munsur Ali, Khadim Hussain and Rakibul Rony all admitted using criminal property stolen from elderly people during a 'courier fraud' in Herefordshire in November 2015.

Mother-of-four Kamrun Sakera and Mohammed Uddin denied the same offence but were convicted by a jury after allowing their bank accounts to be used to harbour the stolen cash in what the judge called 'an epidemic'.

All five defendants were jailed at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday for their part in laundering the money stolen from elderly victims across Herefordshire, including in Ledbury and Ross-on-Wye as recorder Gareth Evans QC spoke of the importance of deterrent sentences.

He said: “It’s an epidemic throughout the country – people are having their bank accounts raped.”

One victim lost £200,000 and another her life savings in the frauds which involved more people than merely the defendants, not all of whom have been identified. Another victim lost £35,846 in the fraud.

Uddin, aged 47, of Shadwell Gardens, London, laundered £4,850 in criminal cash.

Hussain, aged 20, of Ward Street, Oldham laundered £8,250.

Rony, aged 21, of Newbury Walk, Oldham, laundered £20,000 while Ali, aged 26, of Prospect Road, Oldham, laundered £15,250.

Sakera of 34, of Oban Street, London, was responsible for £15,000 of criminal cash during the fraud.

Dean Easthope, prosecuting, said the people were first contacted by ‘victim communicators’ posing as police officers who told them their bank accounts had been compromised and asking for their help in the investigation.

The victims, some in their 80s, were later approached by a courier to collect the cash or were asked to transfer their money to what they thought were safe bank accounts or safety deposit boxes or asked to purchase jewellery and watches.

The five defendants used their own bank accounts for the criminal cash which were then emptied quickly (within 24 hours), some of the money being used to purchase gold bullion.

One victim paid out under £200,000 to the fraudsters. Some of the 'victim communicators' have yet to be identified or those ‘at the top of the chain’ but Mr Easthope told the court that calls came from the London area, specifically from Camden.

Victims were told not to tell anybody. One of the victims suspected it was a fraud but was told it was a genuine investigation by someone posing as a police officer ‘from Scotland Yard’.

One woman described how she felt ‘foolish’ and could no longer go on holiday because of the financial loss she suffered.

She said: “It’s cost me all my life savings. They knew I was an elderly person and vulnerable. I can’t believe people can be so callous.”

Sakera gave two no comment interviews to police while Hussain, 17 at the time of the offence, said he had lost his phone, ‘perhaps suggesting someone else was responsible’ said Mr Easthope. Rony claimed to have no knowledge of the offence while Ali said he had 'lost his wallet'. The defendant were all described as 'lightly convicted' with Hussain and Uddin of previous good character.

Recorder Gareth Evans QC said although all five defendants were ‘not the brains’ of the operation, describing them as ‘cash mules’ who received a small share of the money obtained, they were necessary to the scam’s success.

However, he accepted that it was others at the top who received most of the benefit and used the bank account of the 'mules' to remain anonymous.

The judge said he did not accept Sakera’s claim that she had been ‘an innocent dupe’.

He said: “It’s rare these days not to hear and not to read about scams that are perpetrated against vulnerable people.”

Recorder Evans added: “The sentence I intend to pass is a deterrent one in the hope that people who are only financial mules will realise – and other people will realise – that being involved runs the risk of an immediate custodial sentence.”

Sakera was jailed for seven months, Hussain for three months, Rony for five and a half months, Ali for four and a half months and Uddin for four months.