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An Essex man has been sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud against bet365 and Santander bank.

Jon Howard, a 40-year-old from Essex village Stapleford Tawney, was convicted of the charges at Basildon Crown Court last month, and was remanded in custody until sentencing on 13 April.

Howard was part of a syndicate that used other people’s personal data to create new betting accounts, the court heard, avoiding any account limitations and collecting additional bonuses.

The syndicate had used more than 1,000 false identities with permission, after people willingly gave over their details for Howard who subsequently used them to create accounts with bet365.

As a result of his fraudulent activity, it was estimated that Howard received some £236,000.

Although he had been accused of money laundering in addition to fraud, Howard was found not guilty on that charge.

Greco co-founder Ozric Vondervelden: “The numbers don’t add up. There’s no way that he only made £236k from 1000 identities.”

In addition to Howard’s five-year jail sentence, co-defendant Daniel Gorman was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and 100 hours of unpaid work, after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud against Santander.

Gorman was also cleared of money laundering charges.

A third co-defendant, Anna Nikolopoulos, was found not guilty on all charges.

“Betting online in someone else’s name is against the terms of use,” commented Detective Sergeant Mike Monkton of Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.

“The whole enterprise was dishonest and designed to deceive the gambling company. When we were notified in 2018, we embarked upon a lengthy and complex investigation that took some time to unravel.

“When we executed a warrant at Jon Howard’s address in Stapleford Tawney in February 2019, it was obvious that this was set up to look like any other legal business. 

“Hours were spent trawling through paperwork in different names, receipts for luxury items, bank books and 177 sim cards that were seized from the address. Substantial sums of money were involved,” Monkton concluded.

Commenting on LinkedIn, co-founder of bonus abuse specialist Greco, Ozric Vondervelden, suggested there may be more to this story than meets the eye.

He described it as a landmark case which sets a precedent for operators looking to fight back against fraudsters in the future.

“I had a lawyer look into the legality of this a few years ago [and the] results were that prosecuting someone for using an identity with permission in this context hadn’t been tested in UK courts before,” he wrote.

“I believe that this was due to the industry’s fear of it backfiring in the case of it being unsuccessful. Multi-accounters have previously used this grey area to reduce their legal risks.”

In addition, Vondervelden added: “The numbers don’t add up. There’s no way that he only made £236k from 1000 identities. I’m guessing this is from bet365 alone, and there’s no doubt he would have been targeting many operators.”

Essex Police have issued no further information on the case,and there remains some ambiguity on the specific nature of the charges.

If the prosecution were the result of Howard and his syndicate abusing bonuses while using multiple accounts, it would be the first case of its kind.

Figures within the industry have suggested, however, that the outcome of the case is more likely a result of requesting chargebacks from Santander bank on gambling losses while using multiple identities, which would represent a more clear-cut case of fraud.

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