Criminal gang funded luxury lifestyle by forcing vulnerable teen girls to con shops out of £500,000

Around 30 teenagers - some as young as 14 - were trafficked across the country to target high street stores

A criminal gang who forced vulnerable teenage girls - some as young as 14 - to con shops with fake receipts so they could fund a luxurious lifestyle have been prosecuted under modern slavery laws for the first time in the UK.

The criminals exploited around 30 teenagers and trafficked them across the country to target high street stores with dodgy refunds on reduced goods.

Once inside the shop, the girls were told to put fake barcodes on items to pay a much cheaper price before later returning and asking for a refund at the full value.

The fraudsters, from London, Essex and Cambridge, managed to scam around £500,000 over a two-year period.

Holly Olugosi - the wife of the ringleader of the gang - spent huge sums of the money on cosmetic surgery, tanning sessions, a new Mercedes, luxury holidays and even a fridge costing £2,500.

Vulnerable teenagers approached on social media

Over 30 victims aged between 14 and 17 were discovered by cops when they unearthed the extent of the fraud in 2020.

Girls were recruited via social media and approached on the street, mainly from Greater London and Essex, with some living in foster homes while others had been reported missing, police said.

Isiah Olugosi, 38, orchestrated the large-scale fraud enterprise from his home in Ely, Cambridgeshire, where he lived with his wife and printed the fake receipts and barcodes used to con retailers.

It is believed the shop scams began in around 2018, but bank data showed funds from crime going into Olugosi’s accounts as far back as 2013, police said.

The operation was too large for one person to control alone and Olugosi quickly began to build up a network of trusted associates including ‘team leaders’ and ‘drivers’ who took part in the scams across the country.

Eva Dambrauskaite, 21, and Baran Karamagara, 22, were made team leaders who recruited and managed vulnerable young girls - typically aged 14 to 17 years old - in order to carry out theft and fraud for the organised crime gang.

Many of the victims were picked-up while living in foster homes or supported facilities and some had been reported missing by their families.

The team leaders would trick or coerce the girls into joining their criminal gang, before Olugosi and his drivers transported them across the UK using pre-planned routes to target branches of each store.

Girls would often be missing for days

Clockwise from top left; Isaiah Olugosi, Holly Olugosi, Baran Karamagara and Eva Dambrauskaite (SWNS / Met Police)

The girls would often be missing for several days, committing fraud during the day and staying in hotels at night.

A typical day included theft and fraud from over 10 stores.

By March 2020, the group gathered about £500,000 in profits as a result of their large-scale fraud conspiracy, Scotland Yard said.

Police began investigating the gang after being tipped off by children’s services and when retailers reported some of the scams.

Shop fraud investigators noticed a pattern of young girls getting refunds with false receipts.

In March 2020, police raided a string of homes in London, Essex and Cambridge and seized printers, computer equipment, fake receipts, bar codes, money and devices used to communicate with the girls.

After searching Holly Olugosi’s home, cops found she tried to hide several pieces of evidence before returning to their home where officers were still searching.

Karamagara and Dambrauskaite were arrested at addresses in Essex and Tottenham, north London, on March 16, 2020.

Isaiah Olugosi was arrested at an address in Ilford the next day and Holly Olugosi, 31, was interviewed under caution at a police station in Cambridgeshire.

When police later went to charge Isaiah Olugosi at his home he fled the cops and went on the run for six days before being caught in Bradford, West Yorkshire.

What happened in court with the gang members

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decided the gang could be charged under the Modern Slavery Act. It is believed this is the first time the act has been used in a fraud case in UK law.

After a three-week trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court that finished on Thursday (10 February) Dambrauskaite, of Buckhurst Hill, Essex, was found guilty of conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of children for exploitation, two counts of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering, possession of articles for use in fraud and possession of cannabis.

At a hearing last May, Isaiah Olugosi admitted conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of children for exploitation, two counts of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and possession of articles for use in fraud.

Holly Olugosi also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering at the same court.

Baran Karamagara, of Tottenham, north London, admitted conspiracy to arrange or facilitate the travel of children for exploitation and two counts of conspiracy to defraud in December.

All four are due to appear at the same court for sentencing at a date yet to be set.

‘They were too cowardly to execute their own crimes’

Sergeant PJ Jones, officer in the case from the Met’s Predatory Offender Unit, said on Friday (11 February): “This is a serious case involving the criminal exploitation of a large number of juvenile girls spanning many years.

“Olugosi and others were too cowardly to execute their own crimes, and actively recruited girls with obvious vulnerabilities.

“They embedded themselves through peer groups of vulnerable people using them to commit fraud and using their accounts to launder money.”

Sgt Jones added: “Without the bravery of all of the victims and witnesses in this case, the enterprise would never have been unearthed and I wish to thank them all for their trust.”

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