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Altia-ABM Software Helps Bust Major Fraud in Cumbria

A conman who claimed to be both a millionaire and an undercover police officer has been sentenced to 17 years and 9 months in prison, along with four accomplices, after a major investigation by elite detectives in the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) using Altia-ABM technology.

Michael Milner tricked a solicitor into transferring £200,000 of her clients’ money to him, claiming that he had £3.3m tied up in family trusts, compensation litigation and bonds overseas and would organise repayment once he had access to these funds. In Greater Manchester he also defrauded Allgates Brewery, the pub chain Thwaites and GS Cold Storage out of around £40,000, after forming six bogus pub companies. He went onto offend in Cumbria where he defrauded the owners of the tourist attraction, Ducky’s World, out of their petting farm and other businesses worth £1.6 million. Two brothers who ran a cattle farm lost £1.2m in other scams perpetrated by Milner and his co-offenders.

Police also discovered he had organised a petrol bomb attack on the petting farm when he realised his frauds had been uncovered.

In July 2018, the case was brought to court and five convictions successfully secured using Altia-ABM Insight, and Investigation Toolkit. The convictions included a solicitor and a chartered accountant.

The presiding Crown Court Judge Heather Lloyd, commended the ROCU detectives for their approach to dealing with the victims and for presenting such a complex criminal case in a comprehensive manner. Commendations by a judge are very rare. The case was prepared and presentation aids produced using Altia-ABM technology. This technology is used by every police force in the UK and by law enforcement agencies worldwide.

The North West ROCU is a collaboration between the six police forces in Cumbria, Cheshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and North Wales to tackle serious organised crime in North West England. Representatives from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, UK Border Agency and the National Crime Agency (NCA) are also involved in investigations. The unit tackles serious crimes including fraud, drug-related offences, gang activity and gun smuggling.

Detective Sergeant Jason Burke, a specialist fraud and money laundering investigator with the North West ROCU, said:

“The investigation lasted 14 months and the prosecution case comprised over 100,000 pages. This was an exceptionally complex case which relied on our ability to analyse the crucial pieces of evidence and correctly identify links between the offenders, two of whom were professionals in a regulated sector.”

“The principal fraudster in this case, Michael Milner, incorporated 12 businesses across the North West of England in order to facilitate his fraudulent behaviour. Our ability to investigate the criminality, collate the documentation and link hundreds of exhibits relied on detailed analysis and oversight of the entirety of his criminal activity. Any case of this scale requires bespoke software to handle the investigation, to avoid issues at court and to allow oversight by the Senior Leadership Team at every step of the investigation.”

“The gravity of the offending in this case, which included arson with the reckless use of petrol bombs on a £1.2 million business, multiple frauds, corrupt professionals and the deliberate targeting of vulnerable adults was so significant, it was essential that we prepared the case in a comprehensive manner that allowed no criticism or mistakes during the court process. We couldn’t let the victims down.”

“As a detective with over 20 years’ experience, the key to a successful prosecution is being able to create a body of evidence which is robust and cannot be picked apart in court. We have to present a case to the Crown Prosecution Service which is meticulous, proving the full extent of activity by named individuals at a particular date, time and place, interaction between the guilty parties and how financial transactions have been used to perpetrate the offending.”

“In court, the defence barristers will question police officers at great length with the objective of finding any inconsistency or inaccuracy. If there is any inconsistency or if officers do not have the facts at their fingertips, the entire case could be dismissed.”

“I’ve used Altia-ABM technology for many years, for all my recent cases, we use the software here to run all of our significant investigations, as do staff in other teams involving drugs and firearms offences. Our unit has a success rate of 100% on all of our operations since adopting this software.”

Technology is also a key method of demonstrating how individuals benefit financially from their crimes, enabling the police to confiscate assets and freeze bank accounts. Police forces in the UK have confiscated £891 million since 2010 under the Proceeds of Crime Act, with £110 million being returned to victims.

Ian Watson, CEO of Altia-ABM said:

“Altia-ABM Insight is an end-to-end investigation management system that is fully auditable, enabling police officers and financial investigators to illustrate every step of an investigation and prepare court-ready documents that greatly help to secure a conviction. We are pleased to have close relationships with financial investigators in the UK, from police forces, the NCA and the Home Office, who rely on our products to unravel the web of financial transactions conducted by criminals and demonstrate their guilt.”

Ian Watson, Altia-ABM
(Ian Watson, Altia-ABM CEO)

Detective Sergeant Jason Burke continued:

“Case management systems, such as Insight from Altia-ABM, are increasingly important, for two reasons.

“Firstly, police forces have an increasing duty of disclosure. We have to be meticulous in disclosing every item of unused material to the defence team for the accused. A case management system such as Altia-ABM is the ideal way to record everything in a manner that will be accessible for the officers and the solicitors to review throughout the judicial process.”

“Secondly, fraud is becoming increasingly sophisticated and criminals constantly evolve new methods to try to escape detection. The use of multiple businesses to evade proper scrutiny of company directors and the accounts, with the intention of using the corporate structures for money laundering and fraud is now common practice – with this increasingly prevalent use of complex business arrangements,  technology is a very important part of achieving the pinpoint analysis that brings these crimes to light.”

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