Stu­dents lost £36,000 to fake site, court told

Bath Chronicle - - NEWS - Alex Ross Re­porter [email protected]­

More than £35,000 was duped from in­ter­na­tional stu­dents, a court was told. The money came from pupils who thought they had se­cured places at a West Coun­try pri­vate school, only for them to dis­cover they had been vic­tims of a fic­ti­tious web­site the court heard.

The web­site repli­cated Bath­based in­de­pen­dent school Prior Park Col­lege and was even ad­ver­tised on the Lon­don Un­der­ground.

But it was part of a so­phis­ti­cated fraud and money laun­der­ing op­er­a­tion amass­ing £611,000 in just over a year, a trial start­ing at Bris­tol Crown Court heard on Tues­day.

Three men – San­ketku­mar Pa­tel, Chi­rag Pa­tel and Danesh Pari – stand ac­cused of laun­der­ing money from vic­tims of the al­leged fraud. This in­cludes £36,000 from seven stu­dents want­ing to study at Prior Park.

Alan Fuller, pros­e­cut­ing, said the money from the stu­dents was paid into the de­fen­dants’ bank ac­counts, be­fore quickly be­ing trans­ferred to other ac­counts or with­drawn.

Mr Fuller said: “The in­volve­ment of all three [de­fen­dants] came to light be­cause of a fraud where for­eign stu­dents were fooled into think­ing they had gained places at Prior Park Col­lege.

“Places were of­fered and large sums of money were paid.”

The cash amounts from the col­lege vic­tims ranged from £100 to £6,500 and were for course fees and a doc­u­ment called a Cer­tifi­cate for a Visa (CAS) to as­sist with ap­ply­ing for a visa from the Home Of­fice.

Forged CAS doc­u­ments were sent to some of the stu­dents.

Mr Fuller said: “Prior Park Col­lege got in­quiries from in­ter­na­tional stu­dents. They be­lieved they had got places in the col­lege, but they hadn’t. They had paid course fees. They had paid them to some­one. Who­ever took the money was fraud­u­lently mas­querad­ing as Prior Park Col­lege.”

The web­site, Mr Fuller said, fea­tured a Bath-based postal ad­dress and phone num­ber along with an email.

In­ves­ti­gat­ing trad­ing stan­dards of­fi­cers from Bath and North East Som­er­set Coun­cil were alerted by the col­lege’s busi­ness di­rec­tor. Soon af­ter, two sim­i­lar frauds re­lat­ing to ad­verts for non-ex­is­tent jobs at care homes in Cwm­bran in Wales and in Sur­rey were un­cov­ered, said Mr Fuller.

Mr Fuller said there was “no doubt there have been more vic­tims” of the op­er­a­tion. The trio of de­fen­dants are also ac­cused of ac­quir­ing a com­bined to­tal of £551,750 through bank ac­counts which came from crim­i­nal­ity not re­lated to the 10 vic­tims.

The al­leged of­fences took place in 2015 and 2016.

Mr Fuller said: “The puz­zle has more than the three pieces rep­re­sented by the de­fen­dants. The pros­e­cu­tion ac­cepts that there were other pieces, peo­ple, in­volved who are not here.

“But these three de­fen­dants played their parts in the pic­ture.” San­ketku­mar Pa­tel, 35, of Eden Hall, Le­ices­ter is charged with four counts of con­ceal­ing, con­vert­ing or trans­fer­ring crim­i­nal prop­erty; Chi­rag Pa­tel, 43, of Well­spring Cres­cent, Wem­b­ley, Lon­don, is charged with 11 counts of ac­quir­ing crim­i­nal prop­erty; and Danesh Pari, of Plashet Grove, East Ham, Lon­don, 33, is charged with five counts of ac­quir­ing crim­i­nal prop­erty. The trio deny all charges. The case con­tin­ues.

A fake web­site claimed to of­fer places at Prior Park Col­lege in Bath

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