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Take That To The Bank

Guest post by Bobby Gill

Ever been frustrated or felt ripped off by your bank?

Yep thought so.

Maybe this letter will make you feel better and give you some ideas next time you contact them… shortly before closing your account and banking with a Co-Operative Bank instead!

Read more of Bobby’s thoughts and musing here – http://bobby-gill.blogspot.co.uk

Dear Sir:

I am writing to thank you for bouncing my cheque with which I endeavoured to pay my plumber last month.

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A UK Land Registry worker used their position of trust to supply title deeds and ownership signatures to a property fraud gang who made millions by stealing other people’s homes.

Surjeet Chana, a worker at the Land Registry, along with a solicitor, a bank manager and drug traffickers targeted the elderly and vulnerable, typically, people who had moved into care homes, or were left to deal with probate estates

The gang swooped on empty houses, erecting estate-agency style signs outside, with the name and number of a bogus security firm.

If this led to no inquiries, the gang then changed the name on the title deeds and sold the property to unsuspecting purchasers.

One victim of the con, Freda Gallacher, a retired widow, had been granted probate of her late brother’s estate, including his house. When she went to see it, she was greeted with abuse from the new owner. Her brother’s name on the deeds had been replaced by someone else’s and the locks changed. Ms Gallacher said: “The whole experience has left me in near financial ruin and certainly taken a toll on my health. It is clear to me that I have been a victim of failings within the Land Registry.”

Another person had moved out of her home following a traumatic burglary, leaving their possessions behind and planning to return to it one day.

Police subsequently told them that they no longer owned the property.

At least nine properties together worth £3.8 Million (GBP) were known to have been targeted across South London, but detectives believe that many more homes changed hands due to the gang’s work.

Land Registry worker Surjeet Chana, 64, was instrumental to the plot, using her position of trust to supply title deeds and ownership signatures.

Detectives found £38,000 in cash in the loft of Chana’s £600,000 home.

Prosecuting attorney, Mark Gadsden, told a sentencing hearing at Southwark Crown Court: “This case concerns sophisticated property fraud and money laundering. The gang targeted unoccupied properties, pretended to be the lawful owners and then sold them on to unsuspecting third parties for large profits. Unsurprisingly, they left chaos in their wake. The crime was thoroughly amoral – criminality motivated solely by greed. Integral to the success of the fraud were a number of corrupt individuals and insiders.”

Ms Chana, who worked in the Land Registry’s customer information centre in Croydon, South London, was suspended from her job as a registration officer following her arrest in 2010 and was later dismissed after 33 years of service.

Another key conspirator was conveyancing solicitor Charles Spiropoulos, who worked for Andrews and Co solicitors in Peckham, London.

“He did the conveyancing for some of the properties, in the full knowledge that they were fraudulent sales,” Mr Gadsden said.

He said a business manager at Barclays in Purley, who cannot be named for legal reasons, helped the conspirators to launder the proceeds.

Judge Michael Grieve QC adjourned the hearing until tomorrow, when Chana will be sentenced along with Spiropoulos and a third man for conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

A Land Registry spokesman said that victims would be offered compensation.

MyPropertyPowerTeam.co.uk have featured many stories about property fraud including Donna Jeavons property investment horror story – Read it here!

In the four years to the end of 2010, the Land Registry paid out £26 Million (GBP) in compensation to victims of property title fraud.

For landlords whose properties may fall void, this latest case underlines the importance of putting in place extra security measures on Land Registry documents. Speak to a solicitor to arrange these extra checks, which the Land Registry itself strongly recommends.

Landlord Sally Lawson offers help and advice for landlords worried about property theft and Tenant Identity Fraud – Read It Here

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