Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
Charity worker walks free despite role in internet money scam
A CHARITY worker who allowed his bank account to be used for laundering criminal cash walked free from court yesterday.
Zahid Sarfraz, the former secretary of a gay advice group in Darlington, told police he gave his details to strangers in a nightclub.
Money from an internet scam led by others was put into his account and he moved the funds about, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Sarfraz, 28, was said to have been used by people “far more criminally sophisticated” to help the car parts fraudsters hide the cash.
The court heard how he often visited pubs and clubs in Birmingham where he is said to have handed over his back account details.
The judge, Recorder Tim Gittins, said he was not “wholly convinced” by Sarfraz's explanation, but accepted he had been used.
He imposed a 12-month community order with 200 hours of unpaid work after hearing Sarfraz had never before been in trouble.
The defendant, formerly of Heritage Court, Darlington, has recently returned to the Midlands to study and be closer to his family.
His barrister, Lewis Kerr, told the court that he has completed the first year of a civil engineering course and hopes to work in Africa.
Mr Kerr said the money Sarfraz was involved in moving – £749 – was paid back to those conned in the scam within three months.
Mr Recorder Gittins said: “He has allowed his account to be used by others more criminally sophisticated than he is.”
He added: “You are of previous good character and, frankly, that makes a significant difference, this being your first court appearance.
“In November 2010, you allowed others access to your bank account so it could be provided to unsuspecting customers seeking car parts.
“The fraud was relatively sophisticated and certainly had a number of victims, all paying several hundred pounds for non-existent items.
“They lost not only their money, but time and effort and worry chasing down that money or the items they thought they had bought.”
Sarfraz, now of Warwick Road, Tiseley, Birmingham, admitted a charge of possessing criminal property at an earlier hearing.