A Lambeth fraudster who conned UK students out of more than £1.5m through a bogus student loan website has been ordered to pay back almost £630,000 by the Old Bailey yesterday.
Ruth Smith-Ajala, 46, was part of a cyber crime gang to send ‘phishing’ emails to students asking them to update their student loan accounts.
Unsuspecting students logged into a bogus website and the gang were able to access their accounts and steal large amounts of money.
Smith-Ajala, of Redlands Way, used her share of the stolen money to buy products in the UK to ship to a wholesaler she owned in Lagos in her native Nigeria.
Detective Inspector Pete Ward, of the Met’s Central Criminal Finance Team (CFT), said: “We won’t stop at seeing criminals convicted for their crimes – we will also make them pay back the money they have taken from their victims.
“It is ironic that Smith-Ajala helped defraud hundreds of students while paying for one of her own children to be privately educated.
“She has just three months to pay back the money she obtained, or face a further five years in prison. If she doesn’t pay the money by the time she is out of prison, the order will remain and her finances will be scrutinized to ensure she continues to pay up.”
During the trial Smith-Ajala admitted she had made £1.2million from her crimes and despite initially protesting that she ran a legitimate business, she was found guilty of conspiracy to launder money and mortgage fraud.
The charge of mortgage fraud related to seven houses that she rented out in Kent, Essex and Catford in London.
Specialist detectives from CFT launched a financial investigation after Smith-Ajala was jailed in 2013 and along with the CPS froze her assets and bank accounts.
As a result of yesterday’s confiscation proceedings Smith-Ajala will now have to sell the houses, using the profits and rent money to pay the confiscation sum.
Picture courtesy of Met Police, with thanks