Cybercrim who fleeced students faces scramble to repay stolen cash

Launderer for phishing op has three months to return £630,000 or face another five years inside

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A woman who made £1.2m through cybercrime has been ordered to pay back almost £630,000 accumulated from the hundreds of British students she helped to defraud.

Ruth Smith-Ajala, 46, a Nigerian national of Redlands Way, Lambeth, was given a five-year sentence back in December 2013 for her role in stealing £1.2m from British students in a phishing scam.

Fraudulent emails, which appeared to originate from Directgov UK, were spammed out in 2011.

The emails informed the students that: "We at HM Government noticed your Student loan online login details is [sic] incorrect and need to be updated."

However, the site the email directed its recipients to was operated by cybercriminals, who stole the details students inputted and used them to empty the students' bank accounts, according to the police. The first jailings for the crimes came in 2012.

Smith-Ajala – who laundered money for the gang – used her share of the cash to buy products in the UK, which she then shipped out for sale at a wholesaler in Lagos which she also owned. Smith-Ajala claimed her business was legitimate, but she was ultimately found guilty of conspiracy to launder money and mortgage fraud.

The mortgage fraud related to seven houses Smith-Ajala was renting out, located in Gravesend, Northfleet and Chatham in Kent, Grays in Essex and Catford in London. These houses will be sold and the profits and rent used to pay the confiscation sum.

"She has just three months to pay back the money she obtained, or face a further five years in prison," Detective Inspector Pete Ward of the Met's Central Criminal Finance Team said in a statement. "If she doesn’t pay the money by the time she is out of prison, the order will remain and her finances will be scrutinised to ensure she continues to pay up." ®

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