Alnwick auction house staff help snare phone bid fraudsters

SUSPICIOUS staff at a Northumberland auction house helped snare a gang of alleged fraudsters, a court heard.

SUSPICIOUS staff at a Northumberland auction house helped snare a gang of alleged fraudsters, a court heard.

Auctioneers across the country were targeted by fraudsters who used false identities to register as telephone bidders and stolen credit card details to obtain watches and expensive jewellery, Isleworth Crown Court in west London heard.

In October 2010, the jury heard, Railton’s Auction House, in Alnwick, was contacted by an Alistair Goldsmith – one false name used in the fraud – where a successful bid was made for jewellery worth £20,000. When he said he wanted to have the items collected the next day, the company became suspicious.

Suspicions were further raised after a passport and driving licence details were supplied by “Mr Goldsmith”, Mr Shellard said and, fortunately, the auction house did not fall victim to the fraud.

Simohamed Rahmoun, 31, and Farouk Dougui, 40, are accused of contacting auction houses to register as telephone bidders using false identities. The items they successfully bid for were collected by Jabey Bathurst, 24, giving a false name, and sometimes accompanied by Dougui, it has been alleged by the prosecution.

The court was told that 61-year-old Barbara Goossens, another defendant, ran a jewellery shop and had an “extensive knowledge” of fine jewellery and expensive watches and the expertise to spot good items and what would sell.

In one of the frauds, two diamond rings, a diamond chain, and a tank watch worth £53,690, were successfully bid for at a Christie’s sale in London on June 9, 2010, using the false name Philip Smith, the court was told.

Mr Shellard said the theft was one of a “whole series“ of frauds committed against Christie’s in London as part of the scam. He said: “No doubt the fraudster could not believe his luck, so he pressed his luck a little bit further.”

Rahmoun, of Stile Hall Mansions, Wellesley Road, Chiswick, west London; Goossens, of Dudley Court, Upper Berkeley Street, central London; Dougui, of Charlton Park Road, south-east London; and Bathurst, of Brook Close, Ruislip, Middlesex, deny conspiring to defraud auction houses and jewellery shops between April 30 and November 5, 2010.

Rahmoun, Dougui and Bathurst further deny a charge of conspiracy to defraud car part suppliers and other shops between the same dates.

Rahmoun also denies three charges relating to the alleged fraudulent use of credit cards to buy a motorbike, motorbike insurance and a BMW car in May 2011. The trial was adjourned until today.

 

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer