We identify criminals who robbed students

Matthew Knight

LONDON STUDENT this week has handed over physical desciptions and license plate details of two con artists who prey on central London students and defraud them of large sums of money.

Last month, an Imperial College student was been kidnapped and mugged by another, similar gang operating their ‘Speaker Scam’

This scam is a well-known con trick played on students in the Central and West London areas by gangs of men in white Ford Tranist vans.

The trick involves convincing students that the large P.A.-style speakers that they carry in the back of their vans are surplus delivery stock, and are offered to students at supposedly bargain prices.

This con trick took an unpleasant turn recently when an Imperial College student foolishly accepted a lift from these men, who then mugged him for his cash, and forced him to withdraw a further £40 from a cash machine.

The student, a resident of Bernard Sunley Hall who wishes not to be named, has reported the kidnap and mugging to the police, who are hunting down the gangs of men.

These gangs have been recently spotted in Gordon Street, outside of UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre, and have been seen near the King’s Strand campus.

It is not yet known how many of these gangs are operating, but there are confirmed sightings and descriptions of two distinct groups and vans.

Police have warned students not to approach these men. Prior to this mugging, it was already well-advised to avoid these men, as the speakers they sell as “professional equipment” are poor quality rubbish, sold at exorbitant prices.

One student at Imperial who did buy some speakers (Manufactured by Omni-Audio Products) found them to be “Very crackly”.

It now appears that these men are dangerous as well as dishonest.

“’ERE MATE, wanna buy some cheap speakers?” is the refrain that is becoming all too familiar for UCL students, now joining their Imperial colleagues as potential victims of ‘The Speaker Scam.’

For the uninitiated, ‘The Speaker Scam’ is an old trick played on unsuspecting students around London, where one or two men, posing as deliverymen, attempt to off-load their “surplus stock” of huge, P.A.-style speakers, at “bargain” prices.

These “professional” speakers are poor quality rubbish, which no reputable dealer would touch. However, such is the preparation of this scam, that some are fooled. What is worse, these men are accused of kidnapping and robbing an Imperial student at the end of January.

The men offered the hapless resident of Bernard Sunley Hall a lift to college when he refused to part with any money for their speakers. Once inside the van, he was mugged for all his money, and driven to a cash machine to withdraw a further £40.

It is not clear whether these men are armed, or are merely using threatening behaviour.

These men now appear to have moved from their traditional South Kensington territory and have been sighted on Gordon Street, outside UCL’s Bloomsbury Theatre.

They were leaning out of the van accosting passers by, and one of the men was stopping students as they were leaving the Bloomsbury Theatre.

The two men were driving a plain white Ford Transit van, registration no. P141 YWV. One is aged 18-25, approx. 5’8”, with short ginger hair and a gold earring. The other is a few years older, taller, with shaggy black hair and sunken features.

Police in Belgravia have recently issued the registration of a second vehicle, possibly the one used in the Imperial kidnapping. The white Ford Transit van carries the number: P415 JPO. This van has been spotted near the South Kensington and St. Mary’s campuses.

The scam usually operates in the same way. One of the men will brandish an official-looking delivery docket, saying that he has too many/couldn’t find the buyer/buyer declined et cetera, and that he has to get rid of these speakers somehow. He will offer the speakers at a third, or less, of the price on the docket, and goes on about their high quality and power.

They approached Patrick, a third year UCL student, recently: “They offered me the speakers for £300, a fifth of what they said they were worth. They are obviously very well-prepared, but it was clearly a con.”

Atul, a fourth year UCL physicist, was targeted as well: “They spoke to me in Green Park nearly two years ago, they must have been trying it for years.”

This reporter was approached in South Kensington last year. The dark-haired man was very persistent that I needed his huge speakers, which are supposed to have a power of several thousand watts. Convincing them that I had all the speakers I needed, he went away empty-handed. They maintained on questioning that the speakers were legal, and that the whole operation was above board.

The speakers may or may not be stolen, but are certainly rubbish, and too large to be physically useful.

It is not clear how many gangs of these men are operating, but, following the experiences of the unfortunate Imperial student, they are clearly dangerous as well, and should not be approached.

Crime Stoppers may be contacted on 0800 555 111 for anyone who spots the men or their van attempting to con them or their colleagues.

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