Sunday, 31 January 2010

Barber Shop 'Meth Lab' Bust

An “evil” drug dealer who manufactured ‘crystal meth ‘and ‘2-CB’ in a hidden ‘factory’ behind a local barber’s shop has been caged for four years.

Freddie King, 49, of Yonge Park, Finsbury Park, produced the highly addictive class ‘A’ drugs and sold other narcotics from ‘Firm Cuts’ in nearby Seven Sisters Road.

On November 19, 2008 the Territorial Support Group, Finsbury Park’s Safer Neighbourhoods Team, Islington Police’s Financial Investigation Unit and the Dog Unit carried out a huge raid under the Misuse of Drugs Act.

Police were acting on a tip-off that cannabis was sold from the shop and inside a quantity of the drug was recovered packed inside multiple plastic bags.

However, behind a partition wall officers found crystal meth – plus chemicals used to manufacture the drug – and evidence of ‘2-CB’ production and the possession of ‘angel dust.’

King pleaded guilty to the production of 19.9g of ‘crystal meth,’ production of 16.2 g of ‘2C-B,’ possession of 0.524g of ‘angel dust’ and possession of 4.06g of methoxyamphetamine.

Fearing the potential harm from hazardous substances – including the risk of fires and explosions – officers called in the Metropolitan Police’s Dedicated Decontamination Unit.

Two days later Islington Police removed all the chemicals from the premises with specialist help from the Met's Chemical Biological Radiation and Nuclear Team (pictured), the Forensic Science Service and Islington Council's Emergency Planning Department.

The premises were boarded up after Finsbury Park Safer Neighbourhoods team sought a Closure Order. The property will remain closed until 26 February 2010 when it will be reviewed. A lettings agency is in the process of re-possessing the property.

Detective Chief Inspector Simon Laurence from Islington Police said: "It should be pointed out that there is not a specific problem with crystal meth in Islington and this is an isolated case.

“King's sentence sends out a clear message that it will not be tolerated here and we will robustly pursue anyone involved in the production and distribution of this highly addictive drug.

"The production of crystal meth poses a real danger and without the technical know-how, there is a high possibility of fire or explosion.

“The gases produced may be poisonous, causing death or injury if inhaled. For every pound of crystal meth produced, five pounds of toxic waste is made."

Investigating officer Gethin Roberts from Islington CID said: "The court recognised the seriousness of King's offence.

“Crystal Meth is a lethal drug and its impact cannot be underestimated. Anyone caught producing or distributing a Class A drug can expect a substantial prison sentence."

Judge John Hillen told King: "Given the effects of crystal meth and its highly addictive nature, I find the production of that drug for distribution exceptionally evil."

Saturday, 30 January 2010

G20 Charges Dropped Against 'Armoured Car 11.'

Eleven G20 protestors arrested during last year’s demonstration in the City of London for impersonating police after driving a blue armoured car to the Royal Bank of Scotland had charges against them dropped this week.

They were all charged with impersonating a special constable or member of a police force on April 1, with intent to deceive, contrary to Section 90 (1) of the Police Act 1996.

They were each also charged with wearing an article of police uniform so nearing that of a member of a police force as to be calculated to deceive contrary to Section 90 (2) of the Police Act 1996.

The six-wheel Alvis Saracen, (pictured) a model once used by the British Army in Northern Ireland, was emblazoned with the word 'Riot' and police-style black and white chequered livery.

The vehicle contained protesters wearing blue clothes and helmets when stopped in Bishopsgate.

The Crown Prosecution Service, who had originally charged the ‘Armoured Car 11’ when they refused to accept police cautions, announced all criminal proceedings had been withdrawn.

The eleven – who all pleaded not guilty - were due to appear at City of Westminster Magistrates’ Court on February 8 for a trial expected to last all week.

They are: Jessica Barter, 19, of St. Andrew’s Road, Plaistow.

Leah Borromeo, 30, of Sprules Road, Brockley.

Stephen Gibbens, 21, of Allington Circle, Kingsmead, Milton Keynes.

Paul Hardcastle, 23, of Bellenden Road, Peckham.

Mohammed Hayder, 25, of Hooke House, Gernon Road, Bow.

Stephen Jewkes, 28, of Bellenden Road, Peckham.

Suzan Keen, 41, of Parkside Estate, Homerton.

David Parkhouse, 22, of Homerton High Street, Homerton.

Robin Priestley, 32, of Morrison Buildings North, 35a Commercial Road, Stepney.

Rebecca Walpole, 21, of Seaforth Road, Aberdeen.

David Vannen, 38, of Upper Highway, Abbots Langley, Hertfordshire.

Friday, 29 January 2010

'Danger-Woman' Damji Jailed For Housing Fraud

The notorious socialite daughter of a multi-millionaire property tycoon – once dubbed: ‘London’s Most Dangerous Woman’ – was locked-up for fifteen months today (Friday) for a £17,500 housing benefit fraud.

Novelist and designer Farah Damji, 43, whose recently published autobiography details her life as an international media and art entrepreneur created a web of deceit involving forgery, false identity and bogus claims to landlords and the local council.

“The level of dishonesty at every conceivable juncture is so persistent it’s the type of case I have never come across before,” said Judge Aiden Marron QC at Blackfriars Crown Court.

“This was a scheme dripping with dishonesty at every conceivable corner,” he added. “She was not entitled to a penny on the information provided.”

Ugandan-born mother-of-two Damji, (pictured) of Cardinal Mansions, Carlisle Place, Westminster, claimed her infamous criminal exploits were behind her in book ‘Try Me’ launched last year less than 24 hours before yet another appearance in the dock.

Daughter of South-African-based property magnate Amir Damji, she edited lifestyle magazine Another Generation, wrote for the Observer and New Statesman, was a Birmingham Post columnist and previously ran art galleries in Manhattan and East Hampton, New York.

She earned her notorious description as ‘London’s Most Dangerous Woman’ in an Evening Standard feature.

“Your dishonesty was manifest. You forged documents, signatures, provided false documents, pretended to be someone else, claimed you were penniless, claimed your children lived with you, but claimed great wealth when applying for tenancies and you sought to sub-let one property for profit,” Judge Marron told Damji.

“You manipulated bank accounts so money came to you instead of your landlord and when your dishonesty was exposed you responded with more dishonesty and threats,” he added.

“The prosecution’s case is this defendant orchestrated a planned fraud on landlords and then had the audacity to claim public benefits,” said Judge Marron at an earlier hearing. “She is a relatively sophisticated dishonest woman.”

The court heard Damji told landlords she was the £96,000 a year creative director of fashion company Moksa and owned a £3m Chelsea home with a non-existent husband who was a £100,000 per week property developer.

In fact the ‘husband’ was MySpace pal, American Francesco Miccolupo, who Damji had a fling with then used his bank account behind his back, claim the prosecution.

She pleaded guilty to dishonestly making false representations to landlords Alex and Alix Lentjes in relation to 73c Loftus Road, Shepherd’s Bush and to landlord Benjamin Hutton, owner of 2b Kilmaine Road, Hammersmith on or before October 3, last year.

She also admitted three counts of dishonestly making false representations to Hammersmith and Fulham Council in relation to both addresses, forging a Halifax Bank statement she gave letting agents ‘Lets’s Do Business’ and falsely representing Alex Lentjes was the holder of a specific account benefits were deposited in.

Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act are scheduled for June 14.

Prosecutor Miss Karen Robinson told the court £17,500 in housing and council tax benefit was paid to Damji, who left landlord Mr Lentjes £7,685 out of pocket and with a damaged flat following the defendant’s eviction on October 3, last year.

When Damji rented £350 per week 73c she claimed to be married Farah Miccolupo and was very edgy about providing reference details, explained Miss Robinson, even threatening a libel action against the letting agents she described as “liars”.

Eventually she was given the keys. “The landlord was left with the impression a couple were moving in and were in a position to pay for the flat.”

Rent was paid in a variety of ways and from a variety of sources, including Mr Miccolupo’s account, said Miss Robinson, adding an associate of Damji, Michael Hill, had his signature forged on one document he purported to witness.

Cheques bounced, one came from Moksa and another from an unknown source in relation to 73c which Damji even advertised for £400 per week on website Gumtree, behind her landlord’s back.

A similar fraud was hatched for the flat at 2b, but police arrested Damji on October 27, 2008 before the landlord suffered any loss.

In both cases Damji’s wealthy father funded the deposit payments.

Damji is currently involved in Family Court proceedings for custody of her son, 12, and daughter, 8, who have been brought up by their grandparents in South Africa and are heirs to a huge trust fund.

Her lawyer Mr. Giles Newell told the court: “She was trying to get something better than she was entitled to.

“She accepts what she did was wrong and takes full responsibility for her offending and does intend to pay this money back. This was not a sophisticated, well-planned fraud.

“The aim was to provide for her family,” added the lawyer. “It was a heartfelt attempt to find a suitable home for her two young children.”

Damji once absconded from Surrey’s Downsview Prison – where she was serving a 3 ½ year sentence for a £50,000 credit card fraud – and became Britain’s first on-the-run blogger.

After failing to return to prison when released to attend an Open University tutorial for a sociology degree she kept the world up to date with her exploits on her MySpace page until arrested five days later.

In a breathtaking display of self-promotion Damji even nominated herself for a New Statesman Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2008 Award - describing herself as an individual who has changed through her own diverse talents and created an enduring beauty “spreading light” as she goes.

The controversial socialite first came to public attention over her dalliance with travel writer William Dalrymple plus a fling with a Guardian executive and in a revealing Daily Mail interview detailed the ups and downs of the affair.

In October 2002 she stole her nanny Milla Salminen’s credit card and ran up a £3,903 bill with 61 purchases, including a stay at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Birmingham.

In October 2004, while on bail, she did the same with marketing assistant Darshika Mahavir who visited her house for a sales pitch, and her credit card was stolen by Damji to buy clothing worth £1,030 from Harvey Nichols.

The following month she stole a credit card from Rakhee Gokani, who was organising a magazine photo shoot for Another Generation’s front cover and her card was used 34 times for purchases amounting to £2,630.

She audaciously telephoned top-peoples jewellers Boodle and Dunthorne, posing as Daily Mail showbiz correspondent Kiki King’s assistant, and conned them out of two diamond and platinum rings worth £10,550.

Freelance journalist Ambarina Hasan’s credit card was stolen by Damji and used to open a savings account in the reporter’s name and obtain a £18,000 Sainsbury’s loan.

She also stole two credit cards and a driving licence from a friend, Nazia Soonsara, in a bid to steal her identity.

She pleaded guilty to twenty-five theft and deception charges plus two counts of perverting the course of justice when she told a witness not to appear in court, asked a prosecution barrister to drop the case and posed as then Home Secretary David Blunkett’s assistant in a bid to convince the Crown Prosecution Service pursuing the case was not in the public interest.

Her New York art career ended in disgrace with a six-month stint in tough Rikers Island prison for padding a certified cheque with extra zeroes and forging a court document ordering the seizure of her property.

She was accused in New York of an extensive and pathological crime spree, employing several aliases to rip-off artists, associates and was said to terrorize ex-boyfriends and continued her criminal behaviour in posh East Hampton following her release.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Bank Security Guard Batters Boss

A Royal Bank of Scotland security guard – angry following a reprimand – faces a date with the Old Bailey (pictured) after launching a vicious attack on his boss who was left covered in blood.

Mark Chantel, 34, of Barnsley Street, Whitechapel, pleaded guilty at City of London Magistrates’ Court to assaulting Ken Fisher, causing him actual bodily harm, at the Bishopsgate branch on October 30, last year.

The first-time offender destroyed seven years’ service at the bank and was sacked a month later.

The shaven-headed victim was left with two bleeding cuts to the back of his head, a lacerated lip, bruising, swelling and his glasses and £380 watch were smashed in the attack which has left him suffering panic attacks.

Prosecutor Mrs Varinder Hayre told the court Chantel confronted his boss at 7pm in the bank’s security room.

“The victim was his supervisor and had reported him five days earlier for failing to carry out his duties.

“He challenged him for reporting him and the defendant began striking him with his clenched fist and he fell off his chair onto the floor.

“The defendant kicked him to the torso three times and struck him on the back of the head,” added Mrs. Hayre. “Blood was dripping from the victim’s head.”

Mr. Fisher needed stitches to the back of his head and it took four weeks for the “large amount of bruising and swelling” to go down.

“He says he suffers dizziness and panic attacks and has been unable to return to work,” said Mrs. Hayre.

“The victim says he used to be happy go lucky, but now feels nervous, unsafe alone and depressed. He says Chantel was a close friend, but since the attack he cannot trust anyone and seeks justice for an unprovoked violent attack.”

Chantel’s lawyer Mr. Tony Meisels told the court: “He felt the complainant was always putting him down and felt anxious about his position there.

“There was a verbal confrontation and my client says the complainant pushed him first and he admits he overreacted as the incident escalated and punched the victim a number of times.

“He can’t understand why it happened. It was totally out of character.”

The magistrates committed Chantel on bail for sentencing at the Central Criminal Court on February 23.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Wedding On Despite Punjabi-Night Attack

The wedding is still on for an angry boyfriend who chased his fiancĂ© along the street when she fled a night out at a top City restaurant – slapping her violently across the face in front of shocked passers-by.

Restaurant manager Rakesh Kumar Sharma, 25, was forgiven by his bride-to-be, but it is unlikely U.S. visa officials will be as understanding, throwing their planned New York honeymoon into doubt.

First-time-offender Sharma, of Lambourne Road, pleaded guilty at City of London Magistrates’ Court to assaulting Sulata Paul in Cheapside on September 12, last year.

Prosecutor Mrs. Varinder Hayre told the court it was midnight when Miss Paul fled ‘Tiffinbites’, Russia Row, (pictured) with Sharma in pursuit.

“Witnesses saw the defendant chasing his girlfriend of the past eighteen months, grab her by the arm, turn her around and slap her hard in the face.

“He started to tell the people gathering around to mind their own business and became aggressive.”

Passers-by raised the alarm and police arrested Sharma.

“Miss Paul was distressed and crying and told police she did not want to make any allegations against her partner,” added Mrs. Hayre.

“Sharma told police he had gone to ‘Tiffinbites’ for Punjabi night with his future wife and she said she wanted to go home because she was not comfortable and he said he became angered.”

The July wedding date is still on confirmed Sharma’s lawyer Mr. Tony Meisels. “They have loved each other for a long time.

“The honeymoon is due to take place in New York and there may be implications for that following this conviction.”

Sharma was fined £200 with £90 costs.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Cornwall Domestic On The Streets Of London

A Cornishman arrested after being caught on CCTV launching a drunken attack on his girlfriend during a weekend London visit is “sickened by his behaviour” a court heard today (Tuesday).

Near shore driller George Anthony Matthews, 27, of The Steppes, Higher Penponds Road, Higher Penponds, Camborne had been drinking tequila slammers and beer for hours with his girlfriend before a row suddenly broke out.

He pleaded guilty at City of London Magistrates’ Court (pictured) to assaulting Talutha Landry, by beating, outside Blackfriars Train Station on November 2, last year and was given a nine-month supervision order and ordered to pay £75 costs.

Matthews, currently employed on a short-term contract in the capital, was visited that weekend by his girlfriend of three years, Ms. Landry, who did not want to press charges.

Prosecutor Mrs. Varinder Hayre told the court a witness in the near-deserted late-night street dialled 999.

“The witness heard Mr. Matthews calling his girlfriend a ‘fucking bitch’ and shouting ‘fuck you’ and threatening her.

“He pushed her over and she hit her head on the pavement and he kicked her while she was on the floor to the upper part of her body,” added Mrs. Hayre.

“The female was visibly distressed and the witness felt she must have sustained some injury.”

Ms. Landry ran off, but was chased and grabbed by Matthews. “He slapped her on the side of the face, causing the victim to fall backwards.”

The CCTV camera captures Matthews pushing her over in the middle of the road, then pushing her over again on the pavement and landing a kick with his right foot as she lies on the ground.

Ms. Landry struggles to her feet and is pursued by Matthews who appears to grab her around the throat, slaps her face, causing her to fall again, then follows-up with another slap.

When shown the footage by police Matthews, who earns £35,000 a year, was visibly distressed and said he “felt sick” watching it.

His lawyer Mr. Roland Ellis told the court: “Mr. Matthews cannot fully explain what he did that day.

“He has suffered depression since he was a child and has been on medication, but had been unable to get a repeat prescription from his doctor in Cornwall.

“His job is stressful, he works twelve hour shifts, and unfortunately turned to excessive drinking. He is sickened by his behaviour, aghast at what is described.”

Since the attack Matthews has been attending counselling sessions and the couple remain living together despite the incident.

Ms. Landry begged police not to arrest Matthews – currently signed-off work for three weeks with depression - the night he attacked her and refused to go to hospital.

She urged police not to prosecute and refused to give a victim statement, urging counselling not a prosecution. “Their relationship is still strong,” explained the lawyer.

Ms. Landry and Matthews’ mother travelled with him to court for the sentencing. “She is in no way frightened of him,” added Mr. Ellis.

“This was reported in the local newspaper and has caused him great shame. It is a small community and now everybody knows what has gone on.”

Monday, 25 January 2010

Wife Helps Bully-Boy Mortgage Broker Husband Fake Surveys

A loyal wife who used her IT skills to help her “overbearing” mortgage broker ex-husband secure £2.4 million worth of fraudulent loans by forging valuation reports dodged jail with a suspended sentence today (Monday).

Nicola Hardy, 27, of Water Lane, Pontefract, Yorkshire photoshopped the reports on her laptop, resulting in nine properties being re-mortgaged in excess of their market value.

“You were in a difficult position of saying ‘no’ to this overbearing bully of a husband,” Judge Michael Gledhill QC told her at London’s Southwark Crown Court (pictured).

At the time Hardy shared a home at Highams Park, Chingford, East London with her husband and worked for West End-based commercial property consultants Lambert Smith Hampton.

Typically Hardy altered the number of bedrooms in a property to falsely inflate its value or increased its potential rental yield on independent valuers’ reports.

Negative findings such as rising damp were removed and in one case a property deemed unfit for the open market was described by Hardy as in a “modernized condition.”

She was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for eighteen months, ordered to perform 100 hours community service work and pay £500 costs.

Her ex-husband Neil Edward Durbidge, 30, of Peel Road, Wembley, has pleaded not guilty to the charges and is due to stand trial early next year.

Hardy pleaded guilty to four charges relating to City-based Basinghall Finance plc in that she dishonestly made false representations regarding the mortgage valuation on 62 Brownlow Road, 55b Bruce Road, 17a Essex Road, Willesden and 5 Villiers Road, Cricklewood, North-West London on various dates between November 20, 2007 and January 31, 2008.

She also admitted five similar charges relating to Capital Home Loans Ltd., of Admiral House, Harlington Way, Fleet, Hampshire, regarding Flat 14, Norfolk Court, Harrow, Flat 12, Nicoll Court, Willesden and 23, Woodford Place, 21 Flamstead Avenue, and 21a Flamstead Avenue, Wembley, on various dates between January 11 and February 26, 2008.

Prosecutor Mr. Matthew Banham told the court: “She is not the prime mover. She only became involved as a result of her husband, but she did provide essential assistance and this fraud could not have been completed without her technical assistance.”

No financial loss has occurred because all the clients have kept up with their mortgage repayments, but all the lending companies agree they would never have advanced the loan amounts if they knew the true valuations.

A total of £2,418,850 was loaned on the properties and another £862,000 worth of remortgages applied for were refused.

Although no loss has yet occurred all the lenders consider the loans “at risk”.

“No bonuses were received for securing the mortgages and there was no financial incentive apart from Mr. Durbidge’s employers believing he was busy and successful,” said Mr. Banham.

In May 2008 Basinghall Finance spotted the forgeries and a month later Hardy’s husband was sacked for gross misconduct.

City of London Police raided the matrimonial home on June 13, 2008 and in Hardy’s laptop, recovered from the boot of a car parked outside, officers found evidence of her forgeries.

“When questioned Hardy answered all questions and admitted using photoshop on her laptop so her husband could fill his quota,” said Mr. Banham. “She said she felt she was pressured into it by her husband.”

Hardy’s lawyer Mrs. Isabelle Forshaw described her client’s former marriage as “unequal”, “exploitative” and “flawed”.

“This defendant had nothing to gain whatsoever apart from trying to keep a difficult relationship together.

“Mr. Durbidge had been her whole life. She was with him for ten years from the age of sixteen. It was her first relationship and he was all she had ever known.”

After the arrests Hardy returned to her native Yorkshire.

Hardy even paid for the couple’s “lavish” 2007 wedding as Mr. Durbidge struggled to keep a failing mortgage business afloat before getting a job as a broker.

“I am dealing with a young lady of good character acting under some pressure from her husband,” announced Judge Gledhill. “Over a pretty long period of time this lady has altered reports in order for her husband to assist clients.

“There is no direct benefit, but it was thoroughly dishonest,” added the Judge.

He told Hardy: “I know you have suffered since you were arrested, but you have continued working and tried to pay off your debts and rebuild your life and have a new boyfriend who is in court along with your father today.”