Two men involved in county lines drug dealing tried to blackmail the family members of a woman they gave money to via Snapchat.
Gullaid Ibrahim and Adam Nur were involved in a series of distressing threats and blackmail attempts in Bedford last year. Nur was involved in the ‘Sergio’ drugs line, which operated between London and the Thames Valley Police area.
The pair have now been jailed for a total of 12 years between for their crimes. In October last year, a woman who lived in London with links to Bedford responded to an advert on Snapchat asking if she wanted to earn some money.
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She was told she would receive a £6,000 payment into her account, from which she would take a cut. Within days, the woman started receiving phone calls and texts threatening her and her family over the cash.
She then checked herself into a hotel in London – but Ibrahim and an associate managed to find her from her booking reference, given they had got access to her online accounts such as emails.
They attempted to force their way into her room and were only blocked from doing so by her boyfriend. Hotel staff ejected the men before police arrived. Officers moved the victim to a secure location while she also disposed of her phone over fears it was being tracked.
Lie that young son had been kidnapped
A few days later, men armed with knives turned up at the woman’s address in London looking for her. On that same day, the gang’s search also brought them to Bedford.
A scooter was thrown through a window of a house in Bedford where the woman used to live, while they also attempted to get inside a family member’s address by pretending to be from the police.
The gang then attempted to blackmail the woman’s ex-partner. They called him and lied that they had kidnapped their young son, and demanded £8,000 for his return.
The ex-partner reported this to the police, who were able to analyse call records and link these back to Nur and Ibrahim. The phones used to place these calls were also in the relevant areas when the other offences in Bedford took place.
In a separate incident in Bedford, three men pushed their way into the home of another family member, whose children were at the address at the time, and demanded to know where the woman was.
One of the men was carrying a knife and said that they would hurt the victim at this address if they did not settle the £35,000 debt they claimed was owed to them by the original woman.
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Soon after this, Met Police officers arrested Ibrahim at an address in south London. He was arrested holding a phone which had been used to call the ex-partner.
Nur was arrested while driving a car in west London shortly afterwards. A sim card was in his pocket which had also been used to call the ex-partner, while a handset was also found in the rear of the vehicle with his forensics on it.
Ibrahim, 27, of Aylesford Street, Pimlico, London, and Nur, 23 of Bloemfontein Road, White City, London, were both found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to blackmail.
Both men were today (Tuesday, September 14) sentenced to each spend six years in prison. Nur was given an extra month on top of his sentence for breaching a restraining order.
Both Ibrahim and Nur were handed a five-year restraining order which prevents them from contacting their victims.
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Senior detectives and safeguarding specialists have used the sentence to issue a warning around ‘deets and squares’ or ‘money mules’, where people are approached online and paid to help move money.
Detective Inspector Dale Mepstead, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit (MCU), said: “Ibrahim and Nur would stop at nothing to recover the money they claim had been taken. The fact they brought completely innocent women and young children into this makes their crimes even more despicable.
“Their actions show a complete absence of morals and decency. These people are out there online, on social media and messaging platforms that thousands of young people use every day, looking to recruit people to help them move their money.
“This case demonstrates the scary consequences that might await anyone who gets involved with these schemes. The chance to make a bit of money could cause untold fear and terror for your friends and family – or even worse.”
Victims ‘left paranoid’
When handing down the sentences, Justice Lynn Tayton QC said: “Your actions had long term, if not permanent, psychological effect on the victims. They have been left paranoid and this has taken a toll on their personal lives.
“I am satisfied that both of you were equally involved in carrying out these threats.
“The particular aggravated features are the planned and persistent way you hunted the victim and when you couldn’t reach her, you resorted to threats designed to terrify the victim’s son and ex-partner.”
Bedfordshire’s Violence and Exploitation Reduction Unit (VERU) raises the issue of ‘deets and squares’ in its work with young people, having seen cases of this in the county linked to child criminal exploitation.
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The VERU’s youth intervention specialist (YIS) team coordinator, Tasha Case, said: “Young people up and down the country are becoming more vulnerable to this type of crime.
“I know this can be tempting, especially if money is hard to come by. However, if you get involved in this you risk a prison sentence yourself, ruining your credit history or even worse.
“If anyone approaches you – as glamorous as it may appear, as exciting as it may seem – you need to say no and talk to someone you trust. We can only tackle this if we work together and support each other.”
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