Two men who were part of a gang of fraudsters who hijacked residents’ phone lines in towns including Seaford and Pevensey to scam £50,000 from their victims have gone on the run.
Peach Girling (pictured left) and Thomas Murphy are now being hunted by police after disappearing prior to their crown court trial for the fraud.
Girling and Murphy were convicted and jailed in their absence at Hove Crown Court while fellow gang member Jamie Francis, who was present at the trial, was also convicted and jailed, police said.
The fraud ran from December 2011 to March 2012, during which the trio broke into BT cabinets and hacked into more than 400 residential customers’ landlines.
They then made calls to their own allocated premium rate numbers, allowing them to make thousands of pounds in profit while leaving the residents and the phone companies to foot the bill.
The scam was highlighted by telecommunications companies including BT, Talk Talk and BSkyB after they became aware of large numbers of fraudulent telephone calls being made to international premium rate numbers from landlines in Eastbourne, Pevensey, Seaford and Tunbridge Wells, police said.
After a joint investigation by Sussex Police and BT, Girling, Francis and Murphy were arrested.
Girling, 30, and Francis, 26, both of Midhurst Road, Eastbourne, and Murphy, 25, of no fixed address, were charged with dishonestly obtaining an electronic communications service with intent to avoid payment. Girling and Francis were also charged with possession of articles for use in fraud.
They were found guilty of all the charges by a jury at Hove Crown Court on 21 November after a two-week trial.
Francis was jailed for three years. Girling, who was jailed for three and a half years, and Murphy, who was jailed for two and a half years, were sentenced in their absence.
Detective Constable John Steven said: “The men were caught after a detailed investigation by us, working with staff from BT.
“We need the public’s help to track down Girling and Murphy so they can serve their sentence alongside Francis.
“If you have any idea where they are or where they could be please contact us.”
Anyone with information should email firstname.lastname@example.org, call 101 or contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.