Three sisters who ran an all-female fraud gang were jailed after using stolen receipts and credit card numbers to defraud nearly £ 80,000 in designer clothes, beauty treatments and cash.
Lynsey Burdon, 36, and her sisters Emmiline, 29 and Sarah, 40, from Manchester were convicted today at Chester Crown Court after admitting a conspiracy to commit fraud through misrepresentation.
The gang of girls was arrested in May after a team of 50 police officers searched their homes in north Manchester and confiscated an Audi car, motorcycle clothing, two electric scooters, designer watches and clothing, furniture and a ton of cash.
Undated CCTV footage by the Cheshire Police Department with Emmiline Burdon in Toni and Guy, Liverpool (left) and Lynsey in Beauty Unlimited, Lymm (right)
Prosecutor Sion ap Mihangel said: “The three defendants were all, to varying degrees, part of an organized group operating in Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester defrauding retail stores, restaurants, hotels and spas.
"The fraud was regular and continued despite lockdown restrictions in the UK in late March."
The court heard the women steal up to the receipt and used the card details to make purchases, claiming their cards were damaged.
Once paid, the women would return items they bought or cancel hotel stays and request refunds to their own accounts, ap Mihangel said.
On other occasions, the court heard, one distracted a vendor while another processed a refund to his own account at a store's card machine.
Police identified more than 150 fraudulent transactions in various locations in the North West, Yorkshire and Leicestershire between October 2019 and May this year, with total losses of more than £ 62,000.
Lynsey pictured was sentenced to two years and two months in prison at Chester Crown Court for playing a "leading role" in the conspiracy
While the women kept some of the items they had fraudulently purchased, on other occasions they would return to the stores and request a refund.
They would then insert their own payment card into the machine so that the money would be transferred to their own personal bank accounts for fraudulent refunds valued at over £ 16,000.
The prosecutor said, “Occasionally they would book hotel rooms and then go to the front desk because a family emergency forced them to cancel. They would then present another card and enter the amount into their own accounts.
At the end of the audit, their victims would expose the fraud cases. On other occasions, the defendants did not even use credit cards. Occasionally they would pick up a card machine, know how it worked, enter a standard PIN, and refund whatever they wanted to themselves. This would be noticed at the end of the day when the machines were checked.
"Using that method, they took 400 pounds from Build a Bear, 500 pounds from a florist the same way, and 600 pounds from a tire fitter."
He added: & # 39; CCTV from a Toni and Guy shows Emiline Burdon distracting a worker at Toni and Guy. Lynsey Burdon leans over the counter and tries to steal a receipt. She was unsuccessful on this occasion.
“They received £ 1,000 gift certificates when Lynsey Burdon types a number into the card machine and the saleswoman realizes there is a limit to the amount she can receive. The saleswoman offers her a refund and they can only get £ 1,000 in the card machine.
Handout photo by the Cheshire Police of Emmiline (left) and Lynsey (right). The court heard the women steal cash receipts and use the card details to make purchases
& # 39; Defendants were involved in a large number of transactions between October 2019 and May 2020. The total value of a total of 135 transactions was more than £ 50,000. Many of the companies affected were small. & # 39;
In a statement, Phill Sergeant of Millennium Motorcycles of St. Helen said, “Sometime later we were made aware of the fraud and I was suspended for a week by my manager. My sanity fell and I became depressed.
At a disciplinary hearing, I was told I could keep my job, but received a warning and was given a probationary period. This was because the scammers did not care about the consequences of their actions. I almost lost my job. & # 39;
On mitigation, Lynsey Burdon's attorney Christopher Hunt said, “There have been a number of problems in her life that seem to stem from her low self-worth and more personal reasons.
'This has led her into relationships where she has been abused by numerous partners. She has also abused cocaine and desperation was implicated in her insult and it was inevitable that she would be caught. & # 39;
For the mother of an Emmiline, defense attorney Lloyd Morgan said, "She did not live a lavish lifestyle and it appears that some of the money has been transferred to other people."
Emmiline uses stolen credit card information at the Westside Convenience Store in Crewe, Cheshire. Members of a girl crime gang nicknamed "Pussycat Molls" were arrested today
Lynsey uses stolen credit card information at Arthur Lee Antiques in Knutsford, Cheshire. After payment was made, the women returned purchased items or canceled hotel stays
Lynsey, right, and sister Emmiline use stolen credit card information at the London Road restaurant in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. The sisters were arrested in May this year
Lynsey uses stolen credit card information at the Alderley Edge Hotel in Alderley Edge, Cheshire. The court heard the women steal receipts and use the card details
On behalf of the mother of two, Leanne, Rachel Faux said, “Her financial return has been limited and she has not benefited directly from all the money that goes into her account. Her insult was the result of the personal agony she went through. & # 39;
Chester Judge's Honorary Clerk Steven Everett said, “It all took a lot of front line. You had to be pretty bold about what you did. & # 39;
He added, "It is important for the public to understand that if you commit sophisticated crimes of this type and defraud small shopkeepers, you are going to jail."
Lynsey Burdon was sentenced to two years and two months in prison for playing a "leading role" in the conspiracy.
Christopher Hunt, who defended herself, said she turned to drugs after partner abuse and spent £ 140 every other day on cocaine.
Lynsey and Emmiline, left, with stolen credit card details in a store in Horns Bridge, Chesterfield and Lynsey, right, with stolen details in a TUI holiday store in Liverpool
Lynsey uses stolen credit card information at the Hinton Guest House in Mobberley, Cheshire. On other occasions, the court heard, one distracted a seller while another made a refund to his own account
Lynsey, a sister of Emmiline, who uses stolen credit card information at the Courthouse Restaurant in Knutsford. The police identified more than 150 fraudulent transactions in different locations
The court heard that the defendant, who wore an off-the-shoulder black top and was crying when she was arrested, had 26 previous convictions for 114 offenses.
Emmiline Burdon, who appeared via video link from HMP Styal, was jailed for a total of two years and four months for conspiracy and three disqualified driving offenses.
Judge Everett sentenced the eldest sister, Sarah Burdon, saying, “If it were up to me, I would say never see your sisters again. They influenced you badly. & # 39;
He detained the mother of two for 18 weeks because of her minor role in the fraud.
The court heard that she had been in custody for 12 weeks and would therefore be released under license.
The judge said, “As sisters, you are all from the same background and it is quite obvious that you had disadvantaged childhoods.
"You can't live on that for the rest of your life."
The women will later face a hearing on the proceeds of crime.
"Even when they were in a coronavirus lockdown, women couldn't stop their pursuit of luxury."
In the aftermath of the case, Cheshire Police Department's Det Con Claire Heatley said, “The sentences imposed on these women reflect the gravity of the crimes they have committed.
Over an eight month period, they have systematically withdrawn more than £ 45,000 from the accounts of innocent members of the public by purchasing items with stolen account details.
'They even had daring reimbursements for a number of these items and had the money deposited into their own personal accounts. This resulted in the group receiving over £ 16,000.
“Being locked down even during the coronavirus crisis hasn't stopped women from pursuing the luxury life.
“When the shops on High Street closed, they started targeting off licenses and gas stations, where they bought large quantities of alcohol and cigarettes, as well as hundreds of pounds worth of lottery tickets.
"Fortunately, their illegal shopping spree has been stopped and they are all now facing the consequences of their actions."
Det Ch Insp Clare Coleman, crime manager at Cheshire Constabulary, said, “The women committed the crimes to fund their lavish lifestyles and to buy expensive clothes, perfumes and designer sunglasses.
"It's clear that they hadn't thought about the impact of their actions on the businesses they were targeting and the legitimate customers whose credit card information they were trying to steal."
Detective Sergeant Paul Kay of the Merseyside Police's Economic Crime Team said, “This type of fraud is not without sacrifice as most of these fraudulent transactions have been returned to business, which made them a loser, and in some cases the loss has been to business greater than their weekly turnover.
"A number of employees who dealt with the fraudsters also received written warnings for the execution of the transactions. In one particular case, an employee was suspended and almost fired for not identifying the fraudulent transactions."
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