Kingston student found guilty of halls payment credit card fraud

Police have cracked a scam where students used stolen credit card details to pay KU accommodation fees.

By Joe Stanley-Smith and Georgina Deacon

Former KU student Ahmed Belhaj, 21, was found guilty of fraud after using the details to pay a fellow student’s housing costs and ordered to do 60 hours of unpaid work.

Paul Rattigan, prosecuting, said that students were involved in “a conspiracy which spanned some months”.

83 attempts to use the card details

Belhaj used credit card details, which the prosecution believe he found on the internet, to pay £520 of another student’s accommodation fees on January 5, 2011.

It is thought that 83 attempts were made to use the credit card details on the University payment system, but only five are directly linked to Belhaj.

“Thorough investigation”

The University takes a tough stance against crime and are launching a review of their financial systems to stop accommodation, fees and other costs from being paid fraudulently.

A University spokesperson said: “In the light of this case, the University is currently undertaking a thorough investigation into how this fraudulent activity was able to take place.

“A comprehensive review of the relevant financial systems is also underway and changes and/or developments will be implemented where appropriate to ensure this type of incident cannot happen again.”

Pleaded guilty

When police searched Belhaj’s room at Clayhill they also found an envelope full of blank cheques and 27.4g (almost 1oz) of cannabis. The prosecution conceded, however, that he was just holding the cheques for a friend and had no intention to use them. He added that the cannabis was for personal consumption.

The former student initially denied fraud charges and said he did not know the student who he had paid fees for, but pleaded guilty when the case came to trial last week.

“Remorse and regret”

Judge Paul Dodgson said to the ex-KU student: “It is shame that you are in the dock, and I am sure that you are ashamed of yourself.”

The court heard that the reason it had taken over two years to sentence Belhaj was due to complex material and the technical nature of the case in terms of IT and payment information.

Judge Dodgson was told that Belhaj had expressed “remorse and regret” for his crimes, had no previous criminal convictions and was not the beneficiary of the fraudulently gained money, which has since been paid back.

“This happened two years ago and there has been no dishonest behaviour since. A community sentence is more appropriate than a custodial sentence,” said Judge Dodgson.

60 hours of community service

Belhaj, who appeared subdued in court, used credit card details which the prosecution said were probably obtained on the internet to pay part of a fellow student’s accommodation fees, which at the time were £107 a week.

He was arrested with the computer he used to carry out the fraud, which contained fragments of evidence the prosecution later used to convict him.

Belhaj, of Southwark, South London, admitted two counts of fraud and one count of possession of cannabis for personal use. As well as serving 60 hours of community service, he was also fined £100 for possession of cannabis and a £15 victim surcharge.

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