Former X Factor star found guilty of laundering €25,000 in scam on the elderly
Published 03/03/2016 | 15:06
A former X Factor star has been found guilty of laundering £20,000 (€25,000) from a massive scam on the elderly which was linked to the so-called "Bank of Terror" in Syria.
Nathan Fagan-Gayle, 29, received the money in his bank account from 73-year-old Elizabeth Curtis who was duped into handing it over by a fake police officer in May 2014.
The singer, known as Starboy Nathan, withdrew £15,000 and then filtered £5,000 via his mother's and girlfriend's accounts to give the impression of "fresh money", prosecutor Kevin Dent had said.
The jury heard he blew every penny of his cut on designer clothes at shops including Zara, shoes at Footlocker and on hiring a car in the US.
The singer-songwriter, who toured with JLS and counts Alesha Dixon among his musical collaborators, denied wrongdoing and claimed he thought the money was for a booking in Dubai from a man he met in the Dstrkt nightclub in London.
He told the court he gave a friend money to look after for a trip to America, paid off a debt on a Mercedes lease to Port Vale footballer Anthony Grant, and gave his girlfriend money as a "romantic" gesture.
He told jurors: "I wanted to show off a bit. Show her I am doing it for myself. Send her some money. At the time I was like 'What's mine is yours, innit'. I was just trying to be romantic."
However, a jury at the Old Bailey rejected his explanation and he will be sentenced with a number of other young men who have previously been convicted of their part in the wider £900,000 fraud.
The jury was not told that the con was uncovered by the Met's Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) after a separate terror probe found suspicious payments into a bank account of someone who is now in Syria.
Speaking after the earlier convictions, Commander Richard Walton, head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command (SO15) said: "This was a scam on a huge national scale detected by specialist financial investigators who have stopped the targeting of even more victims.
"We uncovered this fraud after a separate terrorist investigation found suspicious payments into a bank account of an individual who is now believed to have travelled to Syria.
The fraudsters targeted elderly people aged between 72 and 94 from Dorset, Cornwall, Kent, London, Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire.
In all, Miss Curtis was persuaded to transfer around £130,000 to different accounts.
Breaking down in tears during a taped interview, she said: "I was absolutely stunned and shocked and could not believe I had been so stupid and naive as to be taken in."
Fagan-Gale, of Storehouse Mews, Tower Hamlets, east London, said he signed up to Sir Richard Branson's V2 at the age of 17 and produced his first single Come Into My Room.
He toured with the likes of JLS, The Wanted and N-Dubz and also worked on songwriting with pop star Alesha Dixon, he said.
In 2008, Fagan-Gale received £7,500 for a two-week turn in Celebrity Big Brother and in 2012, he made it on to X Factor but was ejected before the live shows.
On the talent show, he said: "It went all right. Obviously, because I had already been doing music for 10 years and quite a few people had already heard of me because I did the JLS stuff, it was a double-edged sword.
"It's more of a show for amateurs and, because of the history, I was expected to go further so when I did not go to the final, it was damaging. But it also widened my audience."
In a statement read to the court, Paul Henderson, director of Seven Stars talent agency in Milton Keynes, said he had known Fagan-Gayle professionally since 2012.
He dealt with him personally on quite a few bookings for between £800 and £2,000 per appearance, including expenses.
But he said: "I have not had any serious bookings requests since May 2013; however, I still follow him on social media like Twitter and Instagram."
Last December, Mohamed Dahir, 23, Shakaria Aden, 22, and Yasser Abukar, 24, from north London, were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud between May 2014 and May 2015.
Mohammed Abokar, 28, from Islington, was found guilty of converting criminal property - £9,000 belonging to Nanette Goldthorpe - on or around January 29 2015.
Following the convictions, it emerged that Jeremy Corbyn, in his role as Islington North MP, had sent a letter in support of Dahir's original successful bail application last May.
Six more defendants have pleaded guilty to their part in the fraud - either as conspirators or money launderers.
Fagan-Gayle was granted conditional bail until his sentencing on a date to be fixed.