A Romanian trio who ran a North West scam selling fake identity cards and driving licenses across the UK were jailed today following a Home Office investigation.
Leader of the criminal trio, Vasile Gheorghe and his two fellow Romanian accomplices Valentin Babtan and Andreea Necula, broke EU Border Control laws by crafting forged Romanian and Italian identity cards and driving licences.
Each fake ID, which was sold for up to £2000 each, carried an image of the illegal immigrant, typically with the name and details of unsuspecting Romanian nationals who would have been legally allowed to move to the UK’s under the EU’s Free Movement of workers programme.
Home Office criminal investigators conducted house raids in Eccles and Preston, where they found a bundle of fake documents and a quantity of cash.
During an undercover sting prior to the criminal group’s arrest last March, Gheorghe, 39, handed over some of the ID cards to an undercover investigator and bragged: “Romania is now in Europe and cheques can be cashed with the card.
“The quality is good. It’s my job. Somebody with this, they go to Cheque Converters. The cheque was for £2,800. They go with their ID – the fakes – and they take the money.”
Gheorghe, Babtan and Necula used the laws to settle legally in the UK but then began dealing fake ID cards on the black market so illegal immigrants could cash in on the UK welfare system and get access to the NHS.
At Preston Crown Court, Gheorge, of Mather Road Eccles, Babtan, 37 and Necula, 28, both of The Mill, Great Shaw Street Preston, pleaded guilty to supplying false documents. Gheorghe was jailed for 14 months whilst Babtan got 12 months and Necula 10 months.
Dave Magrath, from Home Office Criminal Investigations, said: “This case sends a clear message to the gangs involved in this sort of organised criminality – the Home Office crime teams have the skills and resources to track you down.
“Dealing in false documents is a serious offence, whether the motive is to bypass immigration laws, cheat the benefits system or defraud banks.
“Those who think they can profit from abusing the system should know that they will be caught.”