Over 400 arrests and £19 million seized in national campaign tackling fraud 

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Over 400 people have been arrested in a crackdown on fraud coordinated by the National Economic Crime Centre and City of London Police.

The activity, which was the third iteration of the multi-agency Operation Henhouse, ran across February and March 2024 and resulted in:

  • 438 arrests
  • 211 voluntary interviews
  • 283 cease and desist notices
  • account freezing orders of £5.1m
  • seizures of cash and assets worth £13.9m

Fraud is currently the most common crime type reported in the Crime Survey of England and Wales. It accounts for approximately 40% of all crime reports, and costs an estimated £6.8bn each year in England and Wales alone.

For the first time, the action involved all UK police forces and Regional Organised Crime Units, alongside national agencies including the Financial Conduct Authority, National Crime Agency, Serious Fraud Office and National Trading Standards. Over £600k of funding was made available to support the work.

Substantial law enforcement activity was carried out by individual forces and agencies across the UK:

  • 27 arrests were made by Norfolk Constabulary.
  • 20 arrests were made by Bedfordshire Police.
  • Merseyside Police arrested 10 individuals, executed 12 search warrants, seized £548k in cash, and issued five Account Freezing Orders amounting to £287k.
  • In Warwickshire, seven arrests and 11 interviews were made in connection to cases where victims were defrauded out of a total of more than £450,000.
  • The North West Regional Organised Crime Unit made over 90 disruptions.
  • Essex Police froze £2m worth of assets and made 15 arrests.
  • Kent police, in addition to providing call blockers to vulnerable people, arrested 20 suspects, seized more than £7,000 and froze accounts worth nearly £100,000.

Several National Crime Agency investigations, many of which involve its Complex Financial Crime Teams, are ongoing.

High value seizures included an £80,000 Porsche by Lancashire Police, a £70,000 BMW by the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, and a £15,000 Rolex watch, alongside $33,200(USD), £15,750 and a large quantity of high value designer clothing by the South East Regional Organised Crime Unit.

Operation Henhouse also involves collaboration across force boundaries, and between a huge range of partners:

  • Police Scotland, supported by Greater Manchester Police and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, arrested and charged two men in connection with a fraudulent banking scheme.
  • Cleveland Police, working in collaboration with the North East Regional Crime Unit, raided multiple homes across their force area, arresting four individuals.
  • In late February, officers from Tarian Regional Organised Crime Unit, working in partnership with the Gambling Commission, HMRC and Cardiff City Council Licensing, executed six warrants across Cardiff, arresting two men on suspicion of money laundering and gambling act offences. Six poker tables, a spinning prize wheel, poker coins and chips, and multiple flat screen televisions were seized.

As part of the action, the National Crime Agency (NCA) worked closely to assist and bolster work led by partners. This included support provided to the Serious Fraud Office on their investigation into Signature Group, a business that attracted over a thousand UK and international investors in the redevelopment of iconic landmarks. It also included support to the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit on an investigation into an organised crime group suspected of stealing nearly £8 million from victims. The work led to eight arrests, as well as the seizure of £300k cash, a BMW and around 100 devices. The largest amount taken from a single victim was £4.1m.

The results represent a 52% increase on last year’s arrest figures under Operation Henhouse, and demonstrate that through coordinated action, forces nationwide can tackle what is a complex and quickly evolving threat.

Adrian Searle, Director of the National Economic Crime Centre (NECC) in the NCA, said:

“Henhouse is proof of what policing and wider law enforcement across the UK can achieve when we come together.

“The emotional harm that fraud causes is immense, and many of those targeted are faced with devastating and life changing losses.

“Fraud investigations take place all year round, but campaigns like Henhouse not only demonstrate how far we will go to pursue those who commit fraud, but also how successful we can be when we work closely with our partners across the country.

“This partnership also extends to working evermore closely with international counterparts and the private sector to target the fraud threat emanating from overseas, and fraud enabling technologies and infrastructure.

“This activity on a number of fronts will significantly impact the fraud threat”

Temporary Detective Superintendent Oliver Little, from the Lead Force Operations Room at the City of London Police, said:

“The success of this year’s Operation Henhouse would not be possible without the hard work of multiple teams from police forces and regional teams across the UK. This is evident in the results, with an estimated £6m in cash seized and over 430 arrests throughout the month. It’s a fantastic and collaborative effort by all officers who took part.

“This year sees our most impressive results yet, with a record number of arrests and disruptions made. With fraud accounting for around 40 per cent of all crime in the UK, we know the important role we have as the national lead force for fraud and how operations like Henhouse are key in delivering results and disrupting criminals.”

Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said:

“Fraud destroys lives. Operations like Henhouse are absolutely vital to crack down on fraudsters and stop them profiteering off of our family, friends, and neighbours.

“The National Crime Agency and forces across the country have done a great job to seize criminal assets worth millions and make more than 400 arrests in a single month.

“Our approach is working. Fraud is already down 13% in England and Wales. This government is determined to continue our efforts to bring fraudsters to justice and protect the public.”

The public can take steps to help protect themselves against fraud. Be sure to protect your online accounts from compromise by criminals:

  • Create strong, unique passwords for accounts
  • Always use 2-step verification if offered
  • Use your browser’s password manager to safely store passwords.

Criminals may pretend to be a trusted person or company. If something seems suspicious or unexpected, such as requests for money or personal information, contact the organisation directly to check. Use contact details from their official website, not those given in a message, email or phone call.

If you have fallen victim to fraud or cyber crime, report it any time at www.actionfraud.police.uk. In Scotland, report it to Police Scotland by calling 101. If you are a victim of fraud, report it to your bank so they can protect your account.

Visit stopthinkfraud.campaign.gov.uk for more information.

Source: NCA

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