Saheed Azeez, a 33-year-old married father-of-three, exploited his asylum seeker status to mastermind a sophisticated £220,000 Facebook and eBay parcel scam. Azeez had claimed to be facing persecution in Nigeria for his sexuality, but after obtaining refugee status in the UK, he embarked on a life of deceit and dishonesty.
Azeez established a network of accomplices to orchestrate the scam, which involved targeting victims selling high-value goods on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and WhatsApp. He would persuade sellers to send their items to a number of addresses controlled by his accomplices, falsely promising payment upon arrival. Once the goods were delivered, Azeez would collect them and sell them at his brother’s electronics shop.
The scam flourished for over 14 months, leaving 272 victims defrauded of a combined £220,000. Azeez’s accomplices were paid a cut from each sale, encouraging them to continue their involvement in the fraudulent scheme.
Azeez’s elaborate facade began to crumble when police traced him back to his Wigan home. As they prepared to arrest him, he discreetly hid three smartphones used in the scam inside his son’s school bag. His attempt to conceal the evidence was thwarted by a vigilant teaching assistant who discovered the phones.
Examination of the recovered smartphones revealed videos made by Azeez, providing irrefutable evidence of his involvement in the scam. One video, sent to an underworld contact named ‘Baddest Boy,’ showed images of used smartphones stolen from unsuspecting sellers.
The investigation also uncovered that a significant portion of the scam proceeds were laundered through Bitcoin, an anonymized cryptocurrency, to obfuscate the trail of money.
In court, Azeez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation and plotting to possess criminal property. He faces up to six years in prison when sentenced next week.
Nine accomplices who allowed their addresses to be used as ‘drops’ in the scam will face sentencing next year. Authorities believe additional accomplices remain undetected.