Man Jailed for 5 Years for Defrauding Betting Site bet365

A fraudster from the English county of Essex who mounted an elaborate fraudulent scheme which brought him over £236,000 over a period of 11 years has been jailed for 5 years. 40-year-old Jonathan Howard from Stapleford Tawney organised a complex syndicate which exploited betting site bet365 by appropriating bonuses and promotional funds meant to serve as introductory offers for new bettors. Violating the betting site’s rules and breaking the law, Howard is said to have spent his proceedings on various luxury items, the receipts for which were found in his “office”.

Bet365 is one of the leading betting sites in Ireland and the UK and it is known for its excellent introductory offers meant to attract new customers. The online bookmaker also runs regular promotions for existing customers in an attempt to engage and retain its bettors. Bet365 is currently running one of the best promotions available from Irish betting sites – bet between €5 and €10 and get three times the amount in free bets. While this is a fun way for those new to betting to try it while at the same time getting some free bets credit, Howard found a cunning way to exploit the introductory offers.

Set up to resemble a legitimate business, Howard’s enterprise found people willing to provide their personal information to him (it has not been disclosed by the authorities if this was for free or in exchange of something). Howard then used that information to register over 1,000 unique user accounts on the popular betting site bet365, thus bypassing the company’s rules and limitations such as betting limits, KYC and money laundering checks, and limits for claiming introductory bonuses. Using these bonuses, which are normally limited to €5 to €50 depending on the betting site and the available offer, Howard multiplied the funds into almost quarter of a million £. In the process, he impersonated the persons who provided him with their details, claimed funds under their names, and placed bets, thus committing fraud by false representation.

Appearing at Basildon Crown Court, Howard denied all charges. He was found guilty of the above charge, and not guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud against Santander. He did, however, receive a guilty sentence for money laundering. Due to the seriousness of the offences against the betting site, Howard was remanded in custody until sentencing, and subsequently imprisoned for a period of 5 years.

After the conclusion of the 4-week-long trial, law enforcement was finally able to release some of the details of the investigation into the betting site fraud and the charges, which were previously kept confidential. Discussing the case, Detective Sergeant Mike Monkton from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said:

“When we were notified in 2018, we embarked upon a lengthy and complex investigation that took some time to unravel. When we executed a warrant at Jon Howard’s address in Stapleford Tawney in February 2019, it was obvious that this was set up to look like any other legal business. Hours were spent trawling through paperwork in different names, receipts for luxury items, bank books and 177 sim cards that were seized from the address. Substantial sums of money were involved.”

DS Monkton pointed out that the conspiracy syndicate organised and led by Howard was dishonest and aimed to deceive the betting site. He added that placing bets in another person’s name online is against the terms of use of betting sites, and people who do it may be committing a criminal offence.

It is unclear how Howard’s offending came to light, however chances are that he was detected through bet365’s anti-money-laundering and anti-fraud systems. All licenced betting sites in Ireland and the UK have to comply with a large number of rules to do with establishing the source of funds customers deposit, as well as background details and affordability checks for those betting over a certain amount. Betting sites are required to carry out social responsibility checks and to intervene if any potential for harmful / irresponsible gambling is detected. In addition to this, betting providers have elaborate systems comprising of defences and triggers that are supposed to stop fraudulent behaviour from taking place. Howard managed to circumvent these defensive mechanisms for a while by impersonating other people, however he was eventually detected and brought to justice.

It is highly likely that a lot of changes will be introduced to the UK betting and gaming industry with the publication of the long-anticipated White Paper on UK gambling. The detailed Government review of betting sites, bookmakers, and other betting providers is expected to introduce new rules and regulations while scrapping outdated and irrelevant ones, thus modernising the industry and making it fit for purpose for the 21st century. Many issues surrounding social responsibility, KYC checks, and money-laundering checks are likely to be discussed in the report, and chances are cases like this will help inform the discussion and bring in new ways of preventing such incidents from happening in the future.