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Inside the minds of British fraudsters

By Andy Capper, VICE global editor
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Inside the lives of British fraudsters
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Fraud in Britain is estimated to cost taxpayers $47 million a year
  • VICE meets former and current career criminals for an inside look at how they do it
  • A former fraudster says he's now reformed and wants to help the government combat fraud
RELATED TOPICS

Editor's note: The staff at CNN.com has been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and Web site based in Brooklyn, New York. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a very transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our CNN.com readers.

London, England (VICE) -- According to Britain's National Fraud Authority, fraud costs British taxpayers an estimated £30 billion ($47 million) every year; globally, the figure is a staggering $3 trillion, an amount larger than the GDPs of the United Kingdom, France, and Canada.

In April 2011, VICE was introduced to Tony Sales, a convicted fraudster and one of Britain's most successful career criminals. During his career, Sales banked an estimated £10 million through various financial scams, ultimately spending six rather luxurious years of his life on the lamb. Sales introduced us to a number of players in London's vast underground fraud network, who tutored us in various scams that, cumulatively, cost every adult in Britain £621 ($1,000) a year.

A number of those we met were young, working-class men, most in their late teens or early 20s. One young fraudster explained that he first started scamming online to finance his wrestling action figure collection, though when he discovered how easy it was to obtain purloined credit card numbers, he graduated to more expensive items like sneakers, stereo equipment and large grocery orders (which, he claims, are then given to local single mothers). We were allowed to watch as he plied his trade, but his identity was never known to us and we were blindfolded for the round trip to his apartment.

See the rest of UK fraud at VICE.COM

We also spent time with a Nigerian underworld figure calling himself Mr. Gold, the purveyor of a strangely ingenious scheme called "wash, wash." Gold convinces other criminals -- including, he claims, members of the Irish Republican Army -- that he has obtained large amounts of cash that once belonged to Osama bin Laden. He then charges his victim thousands of pounds to "wash" the former al Qaeda leader's "dirty money," which has been stained brown for "reasons of security." The cleaning fluid, Gold explains, is prohibitively expensive and can only be obtained by bribing military personnel. Despite the absurdity of the scam, he claims it has netted him hundreds of thousands of pounds.

How did we gain access to this world? Well, Tony Sales argues that he is now a reformed fraudster, and hopes that this documentary will demonstrate to the British government that they should employ him to help combat fraud. We wish him all the best.

 
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