A brazen mortgage fraud in Northamptonshire has revealed a gaping hole in the government’s Anti Money Laundering regulations and, it is claimed, has ‘struck at the heart of the conveyancing system’.
32-year-old Sarah Broadbelt (pictured, above) has been jailed for 20 months after changing her name by deed poll to that of a rented property’s owner, applying for a new passport, opening two bank accounts, duping the solicitors involved and selling the property for £75,000.
She admitted charges of fraud and possessing a false identity document, although it is believed that she did not act alone and was most likely a hired ‘actress’ in the scam.
None of the solicitors or estate agent involved in the sale spotted the crime even though the age difference between Broadbelt and the property’s real owner Marion Patterson was substantial.
The fraud came to light only after Patterson decided to sell the property a few months later.
The agent she instructed to sell the property then checked its title, only to discover that Patterson was no longer the legal owner of the property.
There has been widespread shock at the ease with which Broadbelt executed the fraud given the identity checks that agents and solicitors must now complete prior to a sale.
AML platform Smartsearch says its technology would have picked up the fraud.
“SmartSearch is an electronic AML verification system utilising credit reference data from Experian and Equifax,” says Fraser Mitchell, technical director at SmartSearch.
“Had the agent entered the fraudster’s details into our system then this could have easily been prevented.
“First of all there is a date-of-birth check, which verifies the applicant’s date of birth against the one held on the credit data. If they are different, a clear fail is shown on the result, which would prompt further investigation.”