Successful 2019 for Cleveland’s Economic Crime Unit
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For Cleveland Police’s Economic Crime Unit (ECU), 2019 was a year of high profile cases, international praise, an overseas arrest and thousands of pounds in cash, property and even antiques seized.
The team’s success at court led to local, regional and national media coverage as well as coverage in trade and third sector publications. Some of their cases have even been picked up by TV series such as Britain’s Secret Charity Cheats and Ill Gotten Gains, meaning more national exposure for the team’s work.
In May last year, a POCA hearing ordered former hospice Chief Executive Graham Leggatt-Chidgey to pay back over £140, 000 which he had stolen from the charity.
Leggatt-Chidgey, who received a four year jail sentence the previous June, had spent thousands on expensive hotel stays and meals, clothing and even pens.
Two months later (in July 2019) Guisborough Estate Agent Roger Darnton was jailed for two years after he admitted defrauding two local people while acting under Power of Attorney and as an Executor.
Darnton spent the £100, 000 he stole from them on paying off loans and household bills as well as buying and storing a large number of antiques. His case will feature on Ill Gotten Gains in the near future. An application to retrieve money and goods is currently underway under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
In 2019, the ECU’s Confiscation Team obtained 35 Confiscation Orders totalling £294, 384 - including one where a victim was reimbursed over £20, 000 they had paid a so-called cowboy builder. This was in addition to four cash forfeitures under POCA, totalling £27, 965.
Obtaining justice for a vulnerable victim of fraud not only resulted in jail sentences for 5 people but also international recognition for one of Detective Sergeant Andy King’s team.
A four year investigation led by DC Rachel Graham into what a Judge described as “a thoroughly callous” fraud against a vulnerable woman led to the Detective being highly commended by the International Association of Women Police in 2019.
Five men, including one who was arrested in a hotel lobby in Spain, received around 15 years’ total imprisonment after they befriended, then systematically defrauded a disabled woman who had won £1million on the lottery.
IAWP Annual Recognition Program Chair Annita Clarke wrote personally to DC Graham to congratulate her and offer her “recognition for your dedication and service to the communities you serve.”
Detective Sergeant King said: “The ECU works tirelessly all year round investigating fraud, and confiscating money and goods from those who exploit others and benefit from them.
“Last year was another busy one with some particularly high profile cases which really showcased the team’s work.
“Many of our investigations are extremely complex and involve complicated financial or legal aspects but the public should be reassured that we will always investigate their concerns thoroughly and professionally.
“ We’re a small but dedicated team, and we work closely with colleagues from across the force; detectives, analysts and intelligence officers as well as our partners in financial, legal and other sectors – all with the shared goal of identifying, targeting and dealing with those who persist in fraud and other economic crimes - and seeking justice for victims.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger added: “The money seized from criminal gangs has allowed Cleveland Police to work more closely with regional partners to tackle serious and organised crime across the North East, by using the additional funds to disrupt the exploits of more dangerous groups.
“Moving forward I want to use POCA funds to repair the harm that these gangs have caused to our communities – primarily though the supply and sale of illegal drugs. Our ground-breaking Heroin Assisted Treatment programme is already making an impact in Middlesbrough, but is only a 12-month pilot.
“By reinvesting POCA funds into the programme and with the support of our partners, the programme can be extended beyond October 2020 and into the other areas of Cleveland, to help more people in the grips of drug addiction and reduce the cost of their substance misuse on our public services and our communities.”