A 21-year-old Nurse involved in a £3 million scam involving controversial payday loan lender Wonga has been suspended from practice for 1 year. Sherene Bascoe is guilty of being involved in identity crime on a massive scale alongside other individuals from April 2012 to June 2013.
The nurse was found guilty of being part of an identity theft gang which exploited Wonga.com’s faulty website algorithms to successfully make over 19,000 payday loan applications using one password, ”Bengali90”.
On approval of the applications, the gang laundered the cash through hundreds of fraudulent bank accounts while unsuspecting identity theft victims were left with payday loan repayment obligations they hadn’t signed up for.
The 19,000+ payday loan applications were made online by entering legitimate names, dates of births, addresses, and debit card numbers alongside fraudulent bank accounts meant to receive the payday loan cash.
According to the prosecutor, Richard Hearnden, the scam was orchestrated successfully because Wonga’s algorithm failed. This is despite the fact that Wonga is the largest payday loans lender in the UK with approximately 30% market share and seemingly unmatched security measures.
Like most payday loan lenders, Wonga uses an algorithm to determine if all the information used to apply for payday loans is correct and if the account number given matches the details of the individual applying for the payday loan.
In this instance, Wonga’s algorithm failed miserably allowing 19,000+ fraudulent applications to be successfully processed, approved and paid out to fraudsters. According to London Police Investigator Andy Cope, the identity crime committed was on an industrial level. The fact that the scam involved wonga plunges the already controversial payday loan lender into more controversy.
Sherene Bascoe conviction
Bascoe who is from Harrow, West London has been convicted of dishonesty before but still managed to remain registered in the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust.
According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council chair, Clive Powell, the council considered the fact that there were no concerns raised against Bascoe regarding her clinical practice and the fact that she accepted that she exhibited wrong and unacceptable behaviour.
Bascoe admitted to entering into an agreement to facilitate acquisition of criminal property. She, however, denied that her actions impaired her fitness to practice as a nurse going forward.
The council also considered the fact that the incident wasn’t isolated and the fact that Bascoe is yet to fully develop insight on the seriousness of her conviction as well as how her actions have affected the reputation of the NMC and the nursing profession as a whole.
Mr. Powell, however, stated that a 12-month suspension is adequate to send a clear message to Bascoe, the entire nursing profession, and the public about the acceptable standards of behaviour and conduct expected from a registered nurse. Bascoe is believed to have used her access to the general public’s personal and financial information to facilitate on of the biggest identity theft crimes in the UK short term loans industry.
According to Mr. Powell, striking off Bascoe from the nurses’ register is unfair and unduly punitive. She is however currently unfit to practice hence the 12-month suspension ruling. The panel also imposed an 18-month interim suspension to allow an appeal.
Scam Mastermind Kelvin Okusanya serving 6 years in jail
The mastermind of the scam was one, Kelvin Okusanya, 32. Okusanya is currently serving a 6-year jail sentence. Okusanya was sentenced in February 2016. He was found guilty of fraud after evidence emerged that he was personally involved in making false applications that left innocent members of the public paying for payday loans they had not applied for.
Okusanya’s conviction was inspired by the fact that his actions corroded the trust people have in the UK financial services sector. The preceding judge was also satisfied with the evidence presented to him that Okusanya was the mastermind behind the whole scam. Eight other individuals were convicted alongside him for laundering proceeds of the scam via bank accounts registered to them or under their control.
Among the other individuals found guilty were; Sophia Pusey Carroll, 46, Monika Solarz, 28 and Olu Fasoranti, 32. Carroll is serving a 21-month sentence, Solarz is serving an 18-month sentence and Fasoranti is serving a 3-year sentence. Sherene Bascoe has been serving a nine-month sentence and 140-hours unpaid work. Other individuals given community orders early this year include Michelle Deola, 23, Kerone Clayton, 42 and Clement Bankole, 38.