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Crime leader jailed after recruiting illegal workers

21 August 2023

MEMBERS OF a criminal gang that recruited illegal migrants to work as cleaners across a string of Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Oxfordshire and the south-west have been sentenced.

Five defendants were sentenced at Oxfordshire Crown Court over their roles in the organised crime group who profited from the facilitation, work placement and housing of around 40 illegal workers, mainly from west Africa.

The leader of the criminal group, Momodou Chune, 55, from Oxford, was jailed for 6 years after being found guilty of 6 counts of assisting unlawful immigration and 3 counts of concealing criminal property. He worked for 2 cleaning companies responsible for providing contracts for cleaners in 9 Sainsbury’s stores in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

The defendants were caught following an investigation by the Home Office’s Criminal and Financial Investigations (CFI) Unit.

It is estimated that over a decade of activity, the gang profited in the region of £600,000 from wages of illegal workers and ‘ghost’ workers. The majority of the illegal workers had more than one name and identity, as Chune created fake employees in order to obtain more money in false wages from his employers.

He did this by supplying illegal workers with multiple PIN numbers which were used to calculate an individual’s pay based on the record of when they logged on and for how long that person had worked.

Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said, "This is another example of the excellent work which Immigration Enforcement is carrying out around the clock to pursue offenders and bring them to justice.

"Illegal working not only encourages illegal migration - it damages our communities, cheats honest workers out of employment and defrauds the public purse as the businesses and workers do not pay taxes.

"That is why this government is cracking down on the practise by increasing our illegal working activity by 50% and relentlessly pursuing the ringleaders."

Investigators found that, from 2006 to 2016, Chune had abused his position as an area manager for 2 companies ISS Facility Services (ISS) and Exclusive Contract Services (ECS), to employ illegal migrants to work as cleaning staff at 9 Sainsbury’s stores in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.

Chune recruited each of the illegal workers knowing they had no right to work. Evidence showed he had control over what the workers were paid as he had their wages paid into his accounts and the accounts of those close to him.

He also controlled where some of the illegal workers lived by providing them with rooms across his multi-million-pound property portfolio. The court heard Chune would pay illegal workers in cash but would deduct rent from those he housed.

This included one worker who was paid £250 a month in cash, however his rent to Chune was £220 a month. Another illegal worker claimed he was paid £5 an hour cash-in-hand for cleaning.

Chune, alongside others in the gang, was found to have laundered more than £310,000 from Exclusive Contract Service Ltd in wages to illegal workers and fake workers through multiple bank accounts.

Those sentenced alongside Chune were:

  • a 48-year-old woman who was found guilty of concealing criminal property alongside Chune to the sum of £31,685, and was sentenced to 12 months suspended for 2 years.

  • a 54-year-old woman who was found guilty of concealing criminal property with Chune to the sum of more than £200,701, and was sentenced to 18 months suspended for 2 years.

  • a 50-year-old man who was found guilty of concealing criminal property with Chune to the sum of £78,638, and pleaded guilty to possession of an identity document with intent. He was sentenced to 23 months imprisonment.

  • a 41-year-old man who was found guilty of fraud by abusing his position as a supervisor at ECS by receiving wages he was not entitled to, and was sentenced to 2 years suspended for 2 years.

Chris Foster, deputy director of criminal and financial investigations at the Home Office said, "The leader of this criminal gang had ultimate control over these illegal workers to exploit them for personal gain. This has been a complex investigation and I want to thank my officers for their hard work, which has resulted in this crime group being stopped in their tracks.

"Immigration Enforcement will continue to dismantle criminal networks involved in illegal working and associated crime, putting offenders before the courts to feel the full weight of the law."