UK Armed Robbery Gang that Laundered Money Through Fixed Odds Betting Terminals Sentenced

Posted on: May 6, 2018, 01:00h. 

Last updated on: May 6, 2018, 03:26h.

A gang of thieves that terrorized North West England with a string of raids on armored cash-in-transit vehicles, banks, and supermarkets laundered the proceeds of their crimes through fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) in bookmakers’ shops, a court heard.

FOBT money laundering gang
Meet the Gang: Members of the FOBT money laundering outfit, including ringleader Dario Eastcroft (top left). News of their sentencing comes at a bad time for the bookmaking industry, which is pleading its case over impending FOBT reforms. (Manchester Evening News)

Between June 2016 and August last year, dozens of raids netted the gang £193,000 ($261,000). This was literally dirty money: in most of the robberies, the loot was protected by explosive dye packs, which would stain banknotes as the robbers fled.

Members of the gang would later feed bills into FOBTs and briefly use the machines, if at all, before cashing out. They would then receive a credit slip which could be exchanged for clean money at the cashier. Bookmakers would only realize what had occurred at the end of the working day.

Manchester Crown Court heard the gang used this method 47 times, depositing anything from $20 to £1,000 at a time.

The gang, often armed with machetes, usually worked in pairs, and would approach cash-in-transit officers at speed on stolen motorcycles while they were replenishing ATMs at banks and stores.

Bookies’ Last Stand

The news of FOBT money laundering comes at a bad time for the bookmaking industry. It has launched a last-ditch appeal to the UK government not to dramatically slash the maximum stakes of the betting machines from £100 to £2, claiming such a move would devastate the retail bookmaking sector.

The government, however, appears to have made up its mind and an announcement on the stakes reduction is expected as early as next week.

While reforms are largely a reaction to concerns that the machines contribute to gambling addiction, money laundering is also a consideration, and the gang’s conviction this week is unlikely to help the bookies’ cause.

Bookmakers are required to apply anti-money laundering (AML) controls designed to assure the machines are not being used for the proceeds of crime, but they have come up short in the past.

AML Fail

In 2016, Paddy Power was fined $280,000 for, among other things, lax AML policies surrounding its FOBTs. In one case, the manager of a Paddy Power bookmaking shop had been repeatedly overruled by senior management after reporting a customer he suspected of FOBT money laundering.

As things stand, a criminal with £1,000 in cash could place £480 on black, £480 on red, £20 on green, for example. The maximum they could lose would be £40.

Sentencing, the judge described the gang as a “a concerted and calculated criminal enterprise.”

The plan was audacious. The stakes were high. The general tactic was to plan the attack to establish what the routines were, what the weaknesses were and when the most appropriate time to strike was,” he said.

Gang leader and mastermind Dario Eastcroft, 25, was sentenced to 12 years, while seven members received various sentences of between four and eight years. They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to convert criminal property.