Britain's biggest ever female fraudster jailed


City of London policeCity of London police

Maria Michaela, 33, has been sentenced to nine years behind bars at Harrow Crown Court. She was found guilty of a £13 million mortgage fraud on some of Britain's poshest houses.

So how did she do it?

The fraud

Michaela used a number of different false identities to commit fraud on eight different properties. She posed as Joanne Pier, a wealthy South African heiress, and bribed a chartered surveyor to inflate home valuations - sometimes even doubling them, in order to enable her to borrow more against them. She conned HBOS out of loans of £10.5 million in 2007 and 2008, and RBS out of £2.5 million.

It was when she approached RBS for a second loan that things went wrong for her. She had changed her alias from Joanne Pier to Zoe Fletcher, and she ran into a member of staff who had been involved when she took out the HBOS loans. They alerted the bank to the fact she was using an assumed name, and they called the police. By then she realised she was in trouble, defaulted on the loans, took the money, and ran.

She went on the run with the money, and was out of the clutches of the authorities for three years before eventually they caught up with her. By then she was working as a mortgage broker in London. Millions of pounds that she stole are still thought to be hidden in overseas bank accounts

Michaela is also known as Nadia Ali, Mia Kul and Anjali Sharma, although her real name may be Bruna Louise. The multiple aliases make it even harder to find the cash.

Most prolific

She pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in jail. Detective Inspector Andy Fyfe, of the City of London Police said:"Maria Michaela created a web of deception that duped banks into handing over vast sums of money, and then perpetuated her crimes by assuming a new alias to try and secure more loans."

"False identities and a corrupt property surveyor were the tools she used to make millions, turning herself into one of the, if not the, most prolific female fraudster the UK has ever seen."

"That she is now finally behind bars is a result of the City of London Police's refusal to give up the search, and proves once again that fraudsters can run, they can hide, but ultimately they will face their day of reckoning."

Before Michaela's crime spree, the holder of the title of 'biggest female fraudster in Britain' was held by Joyti De-Laurey, a former secretary at Goldman Sachs who stole £4.3 million from her bosses between 1998 and 2002. She spent the money on luxury goods and a villa in Cyprus, saying at the time "I've got an illness only diamonds can cure."

HMRC's most wanted tax fugitives

HMRC's most wanted tax fugitives