A man who defrauded Muslim families out of tens of thousands of pounds, by taking payments for non-existent pilgrimages, to Mecca has been jailed.
38-year-old Mudassir Shaheen of Rhodes Avenue, Blackburn, was found guilty of multiple counts of fraud by false representation at Bolton Crown Court.
On 12 January 2016, he was jailed for 30 months. The court heard how, in 2013, Shaheen set up a bogus travel company with a name which was very similar to that of a reputable firm which offers Hajj packages to Mecca.
Using the notoriety of the real firm, Shaheen was able to secure advertising time on a Muslim TV channel on Sky, advertising package and all inclusive holidays and pilgrimages.
As a result of the advertising, twelve separate families paid money directly into an account run by Shaheen to secure a holiday, averaging about £3000 per family.
Nevertheless, despite £36,000 of holidays being booked and paid for, none of the families ever received their trips or were offered a refund.
“The pilgrimage to Mecca is a religious event of huge significance and one that all Muslims, if physically able to do so, must make at least once in their lifetime. The impact, then, of this fraud on the victims has been huge”, Detective Constable Laura Watson said.
“Many of them are elderly, or retired, and therefore will struggle to afford to pay for another trip with a reputable company. Others have expressed their sadness and shame that someone has exploited their faith and their trust in this way”.
“Shaheen has been utterly shameless and unapologetic, refusing to plead guilty and taking this to a full trial, despite the fact that the money has been paid directly into his bank account.
“He then used that money to fund his own lifestyle, paying absolutely no regard for the welfare of the families as he spent their money on his own selfish needs.
“People cannot protect themselves completely from fraudsters like Shaheen, but there are steps that can be taken to limit the risk.
“When booking a holiday always look to speak to the company in person, make sure the company is ATOL/IATA registered and always take extra steps to check the company out before making a bank transfer, as that is the same as paying in cash”.