Fraudster jailed for pretending to be Duke of Marlborough back in jail

Cyber fraudster jailed for pretending to be the Duke of Marlborough is sent back to prison over a £2million scam

  • Alexander Wood, a former ‘child prodigy’, studied at Royal College of Music
  • He posed as Lord Jamie Spencer-Churchill and ran up enormous hotel bills 
  • Wood was recruited by partner in crime Muhammed Azhar while in prison
  • They convinced family firms they had been targeted by the Wannacry virus
  • Virus was used to target the NHS last year and is used as an extortion tool

Alexander Wood was jailed for pretending to be the Duke of Marlborough

A champagne-loving violinist who was jailed for pretending to be the Duke of Marlborough has been sent back to prison over a £2million cyber fraud.

Alexander Wood’s partner in crime Muhammed Azhar was also jailed for the scam, which saw the pair blowing the cash on champagne, Bentleys, Rolex watches and five-star hotels.

Wood, 36, a former ‘child prodigy’ who studied at the Royal College of Music, was recruited by 40-year-old Azhar while serving three-and-a–half years after posing as the 12th Duke, Lord Jamie Spencer-Churchill, as he ran up bills of £10,000 at hotels such as Claridges in Mayfair.

He had embarked on a life of crime after throwing away his promising career as an international violin soloist due to his taste for the high life.

Azhar had been imprisoned at HMP Wandsworth for his role in a £113million fraud run by Feezan Hameed Choudhary, who masterminded the UK’s largest ever cyber fraud.

But unknown to police, while in jail the fraudster hatched a new plan with Wood. 

He persuaded him he could soon be back living in five-star hotels if he joined him in conning family firms out of millions of pounds by tricking them into believing they had been hit by the Wannacry virus.

The online virus, which was used to target the NHS last year, is used by criminals to extort money from victims.

Just days after his release, Azhar – who had been given a new identity and witness protection at taxpayers’ expense after giving evidence against Choudhary – set the scam in motion.

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At least 12 family firms unwittingly transferred money to the pair, who told them they were fraud experts working for banks such as Barclays, RBS and Natwest and instructed them to transfer all their cash to avoid it falling into hackers’ hands.

In a single phone call, one demolition company transferred them £1.2million after being duped into thinking their savings were at risk.

In the call, which was recorded by the victims’ telephone systems, Wood could be heard saying to Azhar: ‘I’m going to buy you a Rolex tomorrow mate.’

They blew the cash on luxury goods and stays at five-star hotels such as Chewton Glen Hotel, Hampshire, where celebrities such as Kate Moss have stayed in £1,200 a night suites.

Wood (right) has now been sent back to prison over a £2million cyber fraud. His partner in crime Muhammed Azhar (left) has also been jailed

They tried to cover their tracks by buying a new £1,000 iPhone every ten days.

But the scam was uncovered when police became suspicious about Azhar’s activities. 

They discovered Wood was living in a £2million townhouse in Camden, north London, where he kept a stash of Rolexes, and spent the weekends at luxury hotels.

Officers found the pair had been searching for small family-run firms around the UK on Google, knowing they would not have the same security checks as a major corporation. 

In a matter of months they managed to con firms including an estate agency, a removals firm and two building contractors.

One of their victims became unwell and others had to make scores of redundancies after suffering devastating losses.

Wood, 36, was a former ‘child prodigy’ who studied at the Royal College of Music

Melvyn Cross, of Total Reclaims Demolition, which was conned out of £1.2million, said: ‘The crime really hit me hard … My brother has been in a downward spiral of depression that resulted in him being hospitalised. 

‘He has been forced to re-mortgage his house as the majority of the investment into the company was against his personal house.’

Last Thursday the pair were jailed at Blackfriars Crown Court for 16 years for defrauding firms out of £1.8million. 

Wood was sentenced to seven years after pleading guilty to 11 counts of fraud and one of money laundering. 

Azhar was jailed for nine years after pleading guilty to eight counts of fraud and one of money laundering.

Detective Inspector Phil McInerney, of the Met’s Specialist Cyber Crime Unit, said: ‘Wood and Azhar carried out a series of despicable offences … They targeted hard-working, family-run businesses. The impact on their victims has been horrific, they have destroyed lives.’

Yesterday Wood’s musician father Christopher said he didn’t know why his son had turned his back on a promising music career. ‘He was very talented. It is very sad,’ he added.  

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