A FRAUDSTER has been jailed after admitting his part in a nationwide iPhone scam.
Emmanuel Richson, who was given an eight-month prison sentence, toured the country obtaining the hi-tech gadgets for a West African organised crime gang, thought to be based in Sunderland.
The 42-year-old, from Sunderland, was caught at a store in Perth, Scotland.
Perth Sheriff Court heard how Richson had recently completed a lengthy prison term for drug running, when he was recruited by the gang.
He could face a longer stay behind bars after it was ruled that the parole board in England should be informed about the scam.
It could see him have to serve the unexpired portion of his original sentence.
Sheriff Lindsay Foulis told him: “You were just out from a seven-and-a-half year sentence and you were part of a clearly well-thought-out fraud.”
The court was told that Richson claimed he was going to be paid £800 for his part in the deception, to obtain the £400 phones from branches of the Orange chain.
Detectives have been alerted to the gang’s plans to target mobile phone stores for the sought-after Apple handsets.
Several shops have already been hit by members of the gang, the court was told.
Richson, who was arrested while pretending his name was Paul Williams, is the first member of the Wearside gang to be jailed.
The known cocaine importer admitted setting up a scam with unknown others to obtain goods by fraud.
The court was told how he presented a bank card and statement in the false name to staff at Orange on September 28, in a bid to deceive them into handing over an iPhone.
The documents are believed to have been stolen at an earlier date.
Staff at the store became suspicious about Richson and contacted the police.
The court was told that he was out on licence for a drug smuggling sentence at the time.
He was convicted at Isleworth Crown Court in London, in 2007, of importing a large quantity of cocaine and was sentenced to 90 months’ jail and banned from travelling for two years.
Solicitor David Holmes, representing Richson, said the iPhone fraud was an isolated incident.
“He did give a lengthy account to the police, accepting his involvement,” he said. “He pleaded guilty straight away.
“He had accommodation lined up and required money for a deposit, and that is how he became tempted to get involved on this one occasion.”
Richson has also been banned from all Orange shops in the UK.