Jail for St John’s Wood fraudster who targeted cancer victim

‘Manipulative’ man gets nine-year sentence for conning three quarters of a million pounds from friends

A heartless St John’s Wood fraudster has been jailed for nine years for conning “vulnerable” friends, including an elderly cancer victim, out of more than three quarters of a million pounds.

Amir Akhlaghi, 42, of Abbey Road, stole �759,500 from his victims and spent three years on the run from police before his arrest last September.

His crimes saw him fraudulently take money for the sale of cars and property that didn’t exist, as well as persuading people to invest in fake businesses and assuming other people’s identities.

Akhlaghi, described by Judge Nicholas Loraine-Smith as “extraordinarily manipulative”, pleaded guilty to 15 counts of theft and fraud at Southwark Crown Court on Monday.

After being arrested in 2006 and granted bail, he failed to attend court in March 2007. A warrant was issued for his arrest and an appeal shown on BBC’s Crimewatch in January 2010 before he was finally tracked down in an Edgware Road casino last September.

Many of his victims were family friends, including an elderly cancer patient, who he pretended to care for while stealing �22,000 from him.

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When questioned about the victim, who didn’t live long enough to see Akhlaghi jailed, he responded “many people get cancer”.

One couple, who had been family friends, separated due to the stress caused by Akhlaghi’s offences and another couple were forced to sell their home.

At one stage he even had the audacity to call one of his victims and pretend to be a police officer purporting to have arrested himself in order to convince the victim not to further contact police.

On another occasion he put his 12-year-old son on the phone to a victim to pretend he was ill as a delaying tactic for not delivering money.

Saeid Asefi, 62, had been friends with Akhlaghi’s sister and brother-in-law for 10 years before he was introduced to the conman in 2008 and defrauded out of �69,500 when sold cars which didn’t exist – money he saved for his disabled daughter.

“My daughter is mentally disabled and these were my savings which I had spent 20 years building up and kept in a separate savings account for her,” he said.

“I got so depressed about what happened. They misused my trust.

“I knew his father but he introduced his son into my life to defraud me. It was all pre-meditated. That is what really upsets me.”

Padma Sadnani, 45, lost �204,500 to Akhlaghi after he befriended her, gained access to her personal documents and bank details and duped her into signing documents to invest money in a fake business and buy items including cars and watches to sell for a profit.

“It all happened in the space of four to six weeks,” she said. “My world fell apart completely.

“I had everything going for me beforehand but he took every bit of cash I had. I’m pleased he got nine years, but he is a public liability and he still will be when he comes out.

“I want to be how I used to be and I hope that one day I will.”

Passing sentence, Judge Loraine-Smith said the fact that Akhlaghi had committed crimes while on bail meant the usual guidelines for jail terms of five to eight years did not apply.

He said: “It’s very difficult to feel any sympathy at all for you. The facts of these cases show you to be an extraordinarily manipulative man. You don’t care who you cheat as long as you get your money.

“From your release until your arrest you stole from the vulnerable and your friends.”

Det Con Karl Lewis, from the Metropolitan Police Serious Violence Team, says he believes Akhlaghi committed further offences adding up to more than �2million and he is appealing for other victims to come forward.

“It took a lot of manpower and a long investigation to get him,” he said. “It was the biggest manhunt I’ve been involved in as he always seemed to be one step ahead.”

Anyone with information can contact 020-7321 9374 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.