CCTV traps village cheque scam crook

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A CRIMINAL was caught on camera about to carry out a giro cheque scam in Grimsargh.

It was just one of a series of offences committed by father-of-two David Murray, 46, and partner Tracey Tadman, 30, at post offices across Lancashire in a well organised criminal conspiracy.

The couple were caught on CCTV visiting numerous post offices in the Preston area in an effort to cash fraudulent cheques doctored by a London-based gang – a task which earned them 75 to 100.

Almost 50 post offices in the county were targeted by the pair after the gang stole people's benefit cheques from the post and doctored the names and amounts on them.

The gang employed Murray and Tadman – both heroin addicts – to cash the fraudulent cheques and both were driven 220 miles north to Lancashire on several different occasions.

Preston Crown Court heard that in total the gang had conned its way to 150,000. Murray, who was driven to the county 18 separate times between February 20 and September 11 last year, was sent into 24 post office branches, including at Grimsargh.

He presented 41 fake cheques and managed to cash more than 13,000.

But staff at some post offices smelt a rat and refused to cash five cheques worth a further 2,000.

Tadman, who targeted several other branches including Walmer Bridge, Croston and Euxton, was sentenced to two years and 48 weeks in February after pleading guilty to the same offence.

She had cashed cheques worth around 30,000.

Preston Crown Court heard how the gang controlling Murray and Tapman, both of Islington, London, stole giros from the mail destined for benefits recipients in London, many of them pensioners.

They also stole bank cards being posted to addresses in the capital.

The cheques were manipulated using "highly sophisticated" equipment to increase the value, change the security code, and doctor the payee name to match names on the stolen bank cards.

This meant if Murray and Tapman were ever challenged, they could show Post Office employees additional proof.

Prosecuting, Andrew Smith said: "The manipulation of the cheques and research of the security code offers an insight into the sophistication of the conspiracy.

"The cheques had been altered to change personal details and the post office security code changed to allow the cheques to be presented in Lancashire.

"In all cases the true value had been greatly increased to as much as 427.50.

"In 18 days Murray presented 41 such cheques worth 15,392.58. He visited 24 post offices, on some occasions presenting more than one cheque.

"Many cheques and cards were presented within days of being stolen."

It is understood Murray was identified on CCTV at New Longton post office on July 24, 2008, and was then spotted on several other CCTV systems in post offices in the county.

The 46-year-old was arrested at Finsbury Park job centre on March 25.

He was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation, and of breaching a previous suspended sentence.

Judge Pamela Badley sentenced Murray from Islington, London, to two years and one month.