Three men have been jailed for up to six years for their parts in running an identity theft ring which netted them millions of pounds.
The true scale of the operation will never be known because one of the gang managed to trip a switch while handcuffed which wiped or encrypted all records of their past activity.
Anton Dolgov was a ringleader of the gang and was sentenced to six years in prison at Harrow Crown Court in London. Dolgov is the former head of the Moskovsky Gorodskoi Bank, or the Moscow City Bank. Aleksei Kostap was sentenced to four years in jail.
Members of the gang pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud, obtain services by deception acquire, use and possess criminal property and conceal, disguise, convert, transfer or remove criminal property.
The gang created false identities and stole credit card details and then bought expensive goods, including top of the range electronics, which they resold on eBay, according to the prosecution case.
Police raided the gang's premises and arrested some of the members, including Kostap. While handcuffed, Kostap leaped up and flicked a switch which triggered the deletion of information on databases and the encryption of other records.
That flick drew a veil over more than 10 years of activity, police said, and destroyed vital evidence."It is quite clear that the total amount of money defrauded will probably never be known,” said David Hewitt of the Crown Prosecution Service. “These conspirators were prolific identity creators running an organized business.”
The raid was conducted by the Serious and Organised Crime Squad, which was unable to break the gang's encryption. They were able to trace three years' worth of activity, and found that the gang had made £750,000 worth of transactions between 2003 and 2006.
The police believe the gang has been operating since the mid 1990s, so estimate that millions of pounds were taken over the whole period. It targeted people in the US and Spain as well as the UK, said police.
A third gang member, Romanos Vasilauskas, was jailed for 18 months and police said that they are still looking for a Mr Kaliusaar, and have a warrant for his arrest.