An elaborate fraud involving three dealerships, a string of finance firms and more than #100,000 of Toshiba laptops is being investigated by the Serious Fraud Squad and Customs and Excise.
Transputec, a reseller based in West London, contacted PC Dealer last week in a bid to warn other dealers to be on the lookout for the sophisticated con men who pose as businessmen, securing credit on orders for 20 laptops but disappear without paying for the goods.
It has also emerged that at least two more Vars - London-based Transam Microsystems and Essex-based Bannerbridge - were stung by the same gang, each losing about #25,000 of hardware. Hewlett Packard and Lombard checked the authenticity of the firm and financed the Transam deals.
Ricky Seagal, director at Transputec, said the dealer was approached by a man claiming to be the boss of a Kilburn-based building firm. Having bought seven laptops with cash supplied by industry brokers IT Rentals, underwritten by Capital Bank, the con men built up a rapport with the Transputec staff and were placed on a preferential credit list. The building firm placed further orders using post-dated cheques.
'The first we knew was when we received a phone call from IT Rentals which visited the address of the builders and found the premises deserted.
We have hired a private detective who is liaising with the police and Customs. It seems this is the tip of the iceberg. They (the thieves) are shipping the goods overseas and are not just targeting the computer industry,' said Seagal.
An officer at Customs and Excise confirmed it was investigating the incidents as part of a wider enquiry and suggested that an international team was responsible.
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