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Mother and daughter jailed for property fraud

News   •  Mar 17, 2017 17:15 GMT

[Image: Laylah Scarlett De Cruz]

A mother and daughter have been jailed for eight years for a Kensington property fraud.

Laylah Scarlett De Cruz, 31 (03.09.85), who resides in Dubai and her mother, Diane Jean Moorcroft, 62 (01.03.54) of Warley Road, Blackpool were both found guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Monday, 16 January of conspiracy to commit fraud.

Today, Friday, 17 March, Laylah Scarlett De Cruz was jailed for five years. De Cruz's mother, Diane Jean Moorcroft, was jailed for three years.

In 2014, De Cruz and Moorcroft had conspired with others to rent a property in Kensington using fraudulent documents.

When the tenancy of property had been secured, Moorcroft changed her name by Deed Poll to that of the genuine owner of the property, who was deceased, and travelled to Dubai where she opened bank accounts in the dead woman's name.

She then travelled back to London where she successfully applied for a loan of £1.2million against the property.

When the loan was approved in October 2014, the proceeds of the fraud were transferred to the bank accounts in Dubai that Moorcroft had opened with her new UK passport under her new name and the funds were subsequently withdrawn in cash.

An investigation was launched in October 2014 by Fraud Detectives from the Met's Operation Falcon after HM Land Registry reported suspicious activity around this particular Kensington property to police.

Moorcroft was arrested in February 2015 at her home in Blackpool on suspicion of fraud.

De Cruz was arrested on suspicion of fraud as she entered the UK from Dubai in May 2016.

Both were subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit fraud contrary to Section 1 Criminal Law Act 1977.

Following a trial lasting ten days the jury found the pair guilty. They were subsequently released on bail to return today for sentencing.

Detective Constable Richard Kirk of the Met's Operation Falcon said:

"As these women conducted this devious fraud, it is clear that it didn't occur to them that official agencies would be able to see through their scheme and this was their undoing.

"Although the wider investigation to trace additional members of the network is ongoing, it is clear that De Cruz and Moorcroft played key roles in the execution of this crime. It is my hope that their incarceration today has seriously disrupted the activities of any additional members of the group."

The proceeds of this fraud have never been recovered.

Alasdair Lewis, Director of Legal Services at HM Land Registry, said:

"Property fraud causes a huge amount of distress to its victims and today's custodial sentences properly reflects the serious nature of the crimes.

"This case highlights the importance of taking steps to protect your property from fraud, particularly if it is tenanted or left empty.

"At HM Land Registry we have prevented frauds on registered properties worth millions of pounds, but no system can be 100% fraud-proof which is why we urge people to keep their contact details up to date and to sign up for our free Property Alert service."

Between April 2015 and March 2016, the Met received 1,029 reports of rental fraud, to the value of nearly £2.5 million.

Officers from the Met's FALCON unit have seen a number of cases where fraudsters are changing their name by deed poll to reflect that of a proprietor; but they will have to retain their own date of birth so are not strictly speaking stealing their identity. As such victims are not in any further danger of fraud and their credit history etc is not in jeopardy.

Prevention Advice: Proprietors should ensure that HM Land Registry has their up-to-date contact address, especially if they are not living in their property. If HM Land Registry becomes aware of something suspicious, they will need to contact the proprietor at the given contact address. If HM Land Registry doesn't have up-to-date contact details, the registered owner may not receive their correspondence.

HM Land Registry has a free Property Alert service that people can sign up for. Once signed up, HM Land Registry will send an email alert to you about the property you are monitoring if they receive certain applications such as for a new mortgage. If you receive an alert about activity that seems suspicious you should take immediate action such as contacting Land Registry's property fraud line (0300 006 7030).

More advice can be found at
www.gov.uk/propertyfraud