The leader of a cyber gang which plundered £1.25 million from British banks, and whose victims included the University of Portsmouth, has been jailed for five and a half years.
Other members of the group were also handed substantial prison terms at London’s Southwark Crown Court for their roles in the audacious fraud.
Tony Colston-Hayter, 48, threw Acid House raves in the Home Counties which sparked controversy in the late 1980s. He led the gang which used a “Trojan horse” device to hijack computers at branches of Barclays and Santander and siphon off cash.
They also stole credit and bank card details from around one million intercepted letters and used them to splash out on Rolex watches and designer jewellery worth more than £1 million.
Colston-Hayter, the son of a university lecturer and solicitor, had earlier pleaded guilty to masterminding the fraud while others also admitted their part in the scam and some were found guilty.
Judge Juliet May QC told Colston-Hayter: “There is no doubt in my mind that you played a key operational role in taking forward and implementing these plans.”
The court heard that the case concerned a “sophisticated and organised” attack on the banking system in 2012 and 2013.
Prosecutor Simon Farrell QC said: “It involved the use of computer technology to steal from banks and the improper use of thousands of credit cards which had been stolen.’’
Jurors heard that the gang used a device known as a keyboard video mouse (KVM) switch to access and control Barclays and Santander bank accounts remotely on three occasions.
Darius Boldor, 34, walked into a branch of Barclays in Swiss Cottage, north London, on April 4 last year, allowing the group to access the bank’s IT system.
The gang used the Trojan horse-style KVM device to make 128 transfers worth £1,252,490 to a network of mule accounts set up to launder the stolen cash.
The court was told their victims included London Metropolitan University and the University of Portsmouth.
Just three months later, the gang struck again. Dean Outram, 32, went into the Lewisham branch of Barclays on July 17 last year and illicitly gained access to its computers, stealing £90,000.
And two months later Outram managed to gain access to Santander’s IT system by fitting a KVM switch into a bank computer at one of its branches in Surrey Quays, south east London.
Meanwhile, Lanre Mullins-Abudu, 25, and another man tried to hack into Santander’s banking system to steal what police warned would have been “substantial funds”.
But police swooped on an address in Kingsley Avenue in Hounslow, west London, where Mullins-Abudu and nine others were arrested.
Officers discovered computers that were logged into the KVM and Santander bank accounts but the gang had not yet managed to steal any money.
They arrested Outram nearby after he left the bank. As well as the cyber attacks, the gang used around 500 stolen or intercepted bank and credit cards to go on expensive shopping sprees.
They got the details by using a sophisticated device which “spoofed” genuine bank numbers, phoned customers and tricked them into handing over their personal details and pin numbers.
They used their ill-gotten gains to buy Rolex watches worth up to £30,000 each, expensive jewellery and state-of-the-art iPads and Apple Mac computers, police said.
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The judge told Colston-Hayter that he had once been a successful businessman and had been on the Jonathan Ross show.
However his life had gone wrong, and he had started to abuse Class A drugs.
The judge told him: “I gather you’ve taken just about every kind of mind altering substance over the years.”
She had read positive references from family and friends, who detected a change in him, and she gave a considerable discount for his early guilty plea.
Mullins-Abudu, of Putney, south west London, was found guilty last month of conspiracy to commit fraud, two counts of conspiracy to steal, possession of articles for use in fraud, and concealing criminal property.
Jailing him for eight years, the judge said: “You were extremely active in every kind of endeavour in this case, and were plainly running some activities separate from Colston-Hayter.”
Steven Hannah, 52, of Marylebone, north west London, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud, was told by the judge: “You were a high achieving businessman in Australia, but sank low through drugs - like Colston-Hayter, it was crystal meth.”
He received three and a half years for his role in organising the credit card conspiracy, plus 28 months for being involved in the supply of Class A drugs, making a total of five years 10 months.
Boldor, of Chelsea, south west London, who pleaded guilty to involvement in the Barclays KVM conspiracy, was jailed for two years, six months.
Outram, of Willesden, north west London, who admitted two counts of conspiracy of steal, was jailed for a total of three years.
The judge told him he had a long history of financially motivated crimes, which had stopped from 2007, but he had fallen back into his old ways.
Adam Jefferson, 43, of Milton Keynes, Bucks, who had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud, was given a 16 months sentence, suspended for two years.
The judge told him: “You had your own IT business, so this has been a spectacular fall from grace.”
Segun Ogunfidodo, 27, of White City, west London, and his cousin Leroy Odunusi, 29, of Abbots Langley, Herts, both received nine month sentences, suspended for two years, plus 200 hours unpaid work each, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud.
Lewis Murphy, 39, of Chelsea, who pleaded guilty to one count of possession of criminal property, was jailed for six months, which has already been served.
Detective Chief Inspector Jason Tunn, of the Metropolitan Police’s Cyber Crime Unit, said: “Today’s convictions are the culmination of a long and highly complex investigation into an organised crime group whose aim was to steal millions of pounds from London banks and credit card companies.
“Through working with industry partners such as Santander and Barclays, whose efforts in assisting us were immense, we have been able to bring this group to justice.
“This case demonstrates the sheer investigative skill we are able to apply to tackling cyber crime, as we continue working to keep London people and businesses safe from cyber criminals. We are determined to make London a hostile place for cyber criminals and not allow the internet to be a hiding place for those who defraud people in the capital.”