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  • Exclusive: The inside story of Jon Howard’s bet365 fraud conviction
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A British man was last month sentenced to five years in prison for conspiracy to commit fraud against gambling giant bet365 and Santander bank. 

The story of Jon Howard, a 40-year-old from Essex, was widely reported, but the case is far from straightforward. 

Unlike in most cases of fraud, Howard was found not guilty of money laundering, and there appears to be some doubt as to whether his actions actually breached bet365’s terms and conditions.

So, why was Howard handed such a lengthy jail sentence?

iGaming NEXT sets out the facts as it understands them, according to sources close to the case.

What they reported

Scant detail from Essex Police left many in the industry scratching their heads, as the case seemingly related to the use of multi-account betting, or using several identities to take advantage of bookmaker bonuses and avoid account restrictions.

Howard’s conviction involved multi-accounting, a widespread practice in the gambling industry, which is sometimes referred to as ‘gnoming’.

The case appeared to be the first in which someone was criminally convicted of fraud for allegedly breaching a betting platform’s terms and conditions through multi-accounting. 

Sources close to the case expressed bewilderment at what appeared to be a civil matter being pursued as a criminal case rather than a civil dispute. 

The case therefore had the potential to set a new legal precedent in the UK. 

New information comes to light

After further investigation, below are the facts of the case as reported by iGaming NEXT.

Between 2010 and 2018, Howard earned a living by engaging in matched betting using bonus funds obtained through multi-accounting.

To create additional accounts, he consensually acquired the personal details of 150 other people, offering them a 10% share of any profits. This allowed him to generate a consistent income. 

During this period, bet365 froze many of Howard’s multi-accounts due to the identification of profitable betting patterns, including one account with a balance of around £500. 

Howard discontinued his multi-account and matched betting practices around 2018.

However, he then sought to release funds that had been locked up in accounts frozen by bookmakers.

To do this, he initiated court proceedings against bet365 with the intention of having the frozen funds released. Only, he did so by using the personal details of another individual.

These personal details were also granted with consent according to one source close to the proceedings who spoke to iGaming NEXT on the condition of anonymity.

iGaming NEXT has been unable to verify this claim, however. The courts then contacted the individual to inform them that proceedings had been initiated in their name.

At this stage, the person whose details Howard had used contacted bet365’s fraud team and stated they had no knowledge of anyone using their information.

Bet365 then referred the claim to Essex Police for investigation.

After tracking IP addresses from email correspondence with bet365, the police conducted a raid on Howard’s family home in 2019, where they discovered 177 SIM cards used to verify the multi-accounts.

Police also found several luxury items which they claimed were the proceeds of criminal activity.

Howard was subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit fraud against both bet365 and Santander bank and the trial against him commenced in February.

Why Santander bank?

Part of Howard’s sentence came from a mortgage fraud charge committed against Santander bank in 2017. 

While making a stable income through gambling, Howard misrepresented a portion of his winnings as a ‘salary’ earned through a fabricated job.

This was designed to offer legitimacy to his earnings in the eyes of mortgage lenders. 

That was facilitated by Daniel Gorman, the owner of a recruitment firm and a friend of Howard’s, who helped by paying Howard a bogus annual salary of around £30,000, which Howard then repaid to Gorman in cash. 

This scheme allowed Howard to declare and pay taxes on these earnings while increasing his credibility with lenders to secure a mortgage. 

Gorman, who stood trial alongside Howard and pleaded guilty to fraud against Santander, received a sentence of 16 months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and 100 hours of unpaid work.

The trial

In February, Howard faced multiple charges during a five-week trial at Basildon Crown Court. The charges included defrauding bet365 through false representation, defrauding Santander, and money laundering.

Howard was found not guilty of money laundering – an uncommon ruling in a fraud case – but pleaded guilty to mortgage fraud, having used a fabricated job to convert gambling winnings into taxable income. 

As a result of the guilty plea, Howard received a two-year prison sentence for mortgage fraud, with an additional three-year sentence handed down for defrauding bet365.

During the trial, the defence argued that bet365’s terms and conditions allowed customers to have bets placed on their behalf by a nominated person. 

In a rebuttal, bet365’s representative argued that the term applied only in cases where the nominating customer was unable to place bets themselves due to ‘incapacitation’.

The defence responded that the incapacitation requirement was not explicitly stated in the terms.

Indeed, a search of bet365’s current terms and conditions shows one clause under term 2.5 that states: “If you nominate another person as an authorised user of your account, you shall be responsible for all transactions such person makes using the relevant account details.”

Bet365’s terms and conditions may have changed since the claims were made against Howard, but the current terms still suggest that customers can nominate another person to place bets on their behalf, meaning Howard’s actions were likely permissible.

The defence added that Howard could not be convicted of false representation because he had obtained the multi-account details with consent. 

After a lengthy concluding statement from the judge, the jury found Howard guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud against bet365 through false representation. 

He was sentenced to consecutive prison terms of two and three years for the mortgage fraud charge and false representation charge, respectively.

What next? 

Currently, Howard remains in custody, where he has been held since March. An appeal for retrial has been submitted, but it is uncertain how long the appeal process will take or if it will be approved.

Alongside his prison sentence, iGaming NEXT understands that Howard is expected to be subject to a confiscation order, although the amount he will be required to repay is still to be determined.

It is unclear whether the previously reported claim that Howard earned £236,000 from multi-account betting with bet365 included his original deposits.

Regardless, if Howard’s appeal is unsuccessful, he may be obliged to repay a significantly larger amount than his profits from bet365, in addition to serving a five-year prison sentence.

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