Court hears how Saheed Azeez, who now identifies as bisexual, helped to create parcel scam stealing from online sellers, The Telegraph reports.
An asylum seeker who won refugee status after claiming to be gay went on to father three children with three different women and help mastermind a £220,000 parcel fraud scam, a court has heard
Saheed Azeez, 33, helped to create a network of strangers and used their homes to receive parcels from online sellers who had dispatched their goods before receiving payment.
Azeez would then collect the products, bought on websites including eBay and Facebook Marketplace, and sell them via his brother’s electrical shop in Wigan, before taking a cut and passing on some of the profits to his fellow fraudsters using Bitcoin.
Up to 272 victims lost a total of £220,000 after being persuaded to send out second-hand items, including smartphones and cameras, they were hoping to sell.
The scam took place between September 2020 and November 2021 after Azeez, a former Yodel delivery driver who had set up his own removals company, began providing ‘‘delivery services’’ for online fraudsters who used Nigerian phones to dupe Facebook Marketplace and eBay users.
Azeez fled his native Nigeria and was allowed to settle in the UK after claiming he was being persecuted over his sexuality by Boko Haram militants. After being granted asylum Azeez settled in Wigan, Greater Manchester, where he fathered three children by three different women.
AZEEZ FACES UP TO SIX YEARS IN JAIL
Bolton Crown Court heard that police launched their investigation into his activities after reports of a large and unusual volume of parcels being sent to addresses in north Manchester. The addresses were all linked to Azeez and detectives eventually tracked him down as he was dropping one of his young sons off at primary school.
As he was about to be detained he hid three smartphones that had been used in the scam inside the boy’s school bag, where they were found by a teaching assistant
Mr Andy Evans, prosecuting, said: “The phones were accessed and interrogated and clearly showed his role in the online frauds.
“It seems these fraudsters would contact victims in the UK who were selling consumer electronics online on various platforms including eBay, Facebook Marketplace and WhatsApp – and victims were persuaded to provide their items prior to payment being made.”
Mr Evans added: ‘‘He accepts he collected the parcels arranged to be sent to those addresses and received a cut himself from the profits. Each occupant of the addresses where the parcels were sent were notified of the fake names in advance whenever the postman called.”
Azeez admitted conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and plotting to possess criminal property. He will be sentenced next week but faces up to six years in jail under sentencing guidelines. He is currently said to be identifying as bisexual.
Nine householders who allowed their addresses to be used as ‘‘drops’’ in the scam will be sentenced next year. It is feared several others have not been traced.
HE FEARS DEPORTATION MORE THAN ANYTHING
The court heard that some desperate sellers who sent out parcels were even ‘‘pressured’’ into sending over money to the fraudsters when they were wrongly assured they would get their items back.
In mitigation Ms Chloe Fordham, the defence counsel, said Azeez, who had been exploited as a teenager, had been a minor player in the scam who had been pressured into taking part.
She said: “His role in the fraud wasn’t sophisticated and he only received a small percentage of the profits. Whatever sentence he faces may result in his deportation and he fears that more than anything.”
‘‘He now has three children in the UK by three different mothers and is married to the mother of the third child. He has parental responsibilities to all the children. He now considers to himself to be bisexual.”
Ms Fordham said his involvement in the scam began when he thought was doing legitimate delivery work, but that pressure was put on him to collect parcels which he knew contained items obtained through fraud.