Criminal sentenced after stealing £867,000 from luxury hotel

A man from Milton Keynes who committed approximately £867,299 of fraud has been sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court to 7 years 10 months in prison, following an investigation by the Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU), a specialist police unit funded by the banking industry.

Zaheer Abbas, 40, pleaded guilty to 12 counts of fraud over a nine-month period between January and September 2023, committing mandate fraud by changing the payment details for a genuine business to a bank account controlled by him.

Abbas opened a bank account in the name of a fake company to impersonate a five-star luxury hotel in London to gain access to the hotel’s payment service and change its banking details to the fraudulent account he created.

To seem genuine, Abbas set up landline numbers complete with recorded greeting messages impersonating the hotel and his bank to mirror the genuine business’ switchboards. This meant that when the payment service contacted these numbers to verify the changes, they were tricked into talking to Abbas. Abbas also impersonated a solicitor to verify his identity on various false documents.

Once the bank account of the hotel was changed, Abbas was able to divert approximately £867,000 in funds from the hotel between the end of May and June 2023. The fraud was reported when the hotel did not receive expected money as usual.

Once Abbas received funds into his bank account, he transferred the money to various destinations, as well as paying for two years rent on a property and a new Audi.

Of the £867,299 stolen by Abbas, £657,404 has been recovered to be returned to the hotel.

Detective Constable Daniel Jordan at the DCPCU said:

Abbas used manipulation and deceit to steal a huge amount of money from a business. In doing so, Abbas put the business and its employees in a very harmful position with no care for the impact of such a serious crime.

Fortunately, we were able to identify him and put a stop to his criminal activity, after working closely with the banking and finance industry.

This sentencing should alarm anyone who believes they can benefit financially from committing fraud, showing that they will be caught and brought to justice.

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Notes to editor

  • The Dedicated Card and Payment Crime Unit (DCPCU) was established in 2002 as a unique, proactive and fully operational police unit with a national remit, formed as a collaboration between UK Finance, the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police Service.  It is funded by and provides services to the members of UK Finance’s Economic Crime Fraud stream.
  • Invoice and Mandate scams a where criminals pose as a regular supplier and persuade you to change the bank account details you hold on file. You’re then tricked into sending money to the account which is controlled by a criminal rather than the genuine supplier.
    - Criminals carry out extensive research about your business to find out who your suppliers are and when regular payments are due. These scams often involve a criminal intercepting emails, gaining access to your supplier’s email account or spoofing their emails.
    The fraud is often only discovered when the legitimate supplier of the product or service chases for non-payment. At that point recovery of the funds from the fraudulent account is very difficult.

You can follow the advice of UK Finance’s Take Five To Stop Fraud campaign, to follow the steps on how to spot an invoice and mandate scam.