Zimbabwean Couple Jailed for Defrauding Ely Businessman

PUBLISHED: 10:39 23 January 2009 | UPDATED: 10:43 04 May 2010

A ZIMBABWEAN couple have been jailed after defrauding a prominent Ely businessman of nearly £50,000. Former mayor Ron Bradney, who owns The Atrium Club, was just one of six people conned by Danai Tengende and Cecil Chipendo. His Littleport-based direct

A ZIMBABWEAN couple have been jailed after defrauding a prominent Ely businessman of nearly £50,000.

Former mayor Ron Bradney, who owns The Atrium Club, was just one of six people conned by Danai Tengende and Cecil Chipendo.

His Littleport-based direct debit company Eazipay were deliberately targeted by the couple, who claimed to be putting on a Birmingham gospel concert and asked Eazipay to collect direct debit payments from their backers.

But the couple's bank raised the alarm signatures were being forged, and Eazipay realised they had lost £50,000 under the direct debit guarantee scheme.

"They were very, genuinely clever," said Louise Gray, Eazipay manager. "We've met all sorts of people in the last seven years and not once did we suspect them. He [Chipendo] had every angle covered."

The incident happened in 2007, when Mr Bradney was running his gyms in Ely and Cambridge, overseeing Eazipay, which was only five years old at the time, doing mayoral duties, and carrying out his work as a district councillor.

It was a stressful time not only for Mr Bradney, but for his wife Kathy, a magistrate, and Eazipay staff, who still have no idea what prompted the Cambourne couple to carry out the fraud.

"If we had been a year younger, we would have gone over the edge," said Ms Gray. "Chipendo said he was taking money from a business, but he doesn't realise what damage he has caused to the people who work for that business.

"We had to work really hard. I'm very lucky in that I have meetings every week with Ron and Kathy, but as you can imagine, we talked about nothing else. Its hard enough trying to run a business as it is without this"

An application has been made to recover the money under the Proceeds of Crime Act, but the couple covered their tracks. They claimed to have no assets, and rented their spacious Cambourne home. No cars are registered in their name, but Chipendo did claim to have a Zimbabwean account with nearly $5million in it - cash he was unable to access because of the Mugabe regime's tight financial controls.

Eazipay also spent £13,000 on legal fees.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, police have 56 days to recover any assets or cash, but Ms Gray is not hopeful. "We were pleased they were jailed - I didn't want them to get a slap on the wrist - but it looks as though the money is gone."

Chipendo, 32, was given a 30-month jail sentence at Cambridge Crown Court, after pleading guilty to six counts of fraud.

His 24-year-old wife, a former student at Netherhall School in Cambridge, will serve 12months.

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