A gang of fraudsters who carried out a £3m internet scam which secured payday loans from Wonga using the identities of thousands of innocent members of the public has been jailed for six years.
Gang members from across west London were led by Kelvin Okusanya, 32, in exploiting the company's faulty website algorithms to make more than 19,000 applications using the same password 'Bengali90'.
The cash was then laundered through hundreds of bank accounts by the fraudsters while the unsuspecting victims were left facing paying the 1% a day interest payments.
Okusanya, of Lockhart Avenue, Milton Keynes, denied but was convicted of fraud by false representation after the Old Bailey heard he personally made 82 false applications involving 30 victims.
The judge, Mr Recorder Sells QC, said: "The names and details of wholly innocent members of the public were used to make fraudulent loan applications on a massive scale.
"Some were even contacted by Wonga for the loans they had not applied for and knew nothing about.
"Such offences are corrosive of the trust which people hold in the financial services sector. They are increasingly prevalent, they are easy to commit and hard to detect."
The judge told Okusanya he was satisfied the gang had intended to make many milllions of pounds from their crimes.
'Tip of the iceberg'
Six gang members from west London were convicted of laundering the proceeds of the cash through bank accounts under their control. Olu Fasoranti, 32, of The Hollands, Feltham, was jailed for three years; Sophia Pusey-Carroll, 46, of Byron Court, Byron Road, Harrow, was jailed for 21 months; and Monika Solarz, 28, of Audley Road, Hendon, was jailed for 18 months.
Omotola Wellington, 31, of Burnden Close, Brentford, was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for two years; Michelle Deola, 23, of Langdale Avenue, Hayes, was given a community order with 100 hours unpaid work; and Sherene Bascoe, 21, of Marlow Court, Pinner Road, Harrow, was sentenced to nine months suspended for two years and 140 hours unpaid work.
Prosecutor Richard Hearnden told the court: "The criminals netted over £3m by targeting one of Britain's most controversial institutions, the pay day lender Wonga.
"Wonga paid out on thousands of payday loans. Each of these loans was only for a few hundred pounds but added together these loans amounted to millions.
"The fraud came about by stealing the names, dates of birth, addresses, email addresses, mobile phone numbers and debit card numbers of literally thousands of ordinary members of the public.
"The fraudsters that were operating this scam probably bought ready-made lists of potential victims and their personal financial data. How precisely this data was secured is not known."
The trial focused on 30 victims but this was "the smallest tip of a very substantial iceberg" according to Mr Hearnden.
Up to 19,000 loans paid out
Applications were made online by entering names, addresses and dates of birth together with the debit card number used to make repayments and the details of the account receiving the cash.
Wonga uses an algorithm to determine whether the information provided is correct and whether the account number matches the name and other details of the person applying for the loan.
Mr Hearnden said: "It would appear that this algorithm failed. The result was as many as 19,000 fraudulent applications were successfully processed and paid out.
"The money was paid into bank accounts that had nothing to do with the people named in the loan application. Some repayments were actually made to Wonga fraudulently - in other words some innocent people made repayments for loans which they hadn't applied for."
Mr Hearnden said it was possible to identify 19,013 fraudulent applications by the same "criminal outfit" because they used the same password, despite Wonga's algorithm not detecting this.
Other gang members sentenced for helping launder the loan money were Maureen Ako, 35, of Snipe Close, Erith, south east London, who was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years and 200 hours unpaid work; and Kerone Clayton, 42, of Barnwood Road, Birmingham and Clement Bankole, 38, of Walmer Terrace, Plumstead, south east London, who were both given community orders with 40 hours unpaid work.
Police Staff Investigator Andy Cope, from the City of London Police, said: "This group of money mules would have been working in partnership with the people making the fraudulent loan applications, together taking millions of pounds from Wonga and committing identity crime on an industrial level.
"Being a money mule may seem like a relatively harmless offence, but law enforcement views it very differently. We are committed to stopping those middle-men who enable fraud and other crimes."