viernes, 5 de octubre de 2012

The gang who sold houses they didn't own

Crime and accident stories are perfect to gauge our understanding of English, especially if they deal with events we know little or nothing about. Take "The gang who sold houses they didn't own", a news item
that Skynews informed about some months ago.

Self-study activity:
Watch the news clip and answer the questions below about it.

1 What are the jobs of the gang members?
2 What's the problem with the female member of the gang these days?
3 What does four million pounds refer to?
4 What kinds of homes did the gang look for?
5 What was the gang's usual procedure when they spotted a suitable home?
6 How serious is this crime?
7 Why is a barber shop mentioned?
8 What does 8% refer to at the end of the clip?

To check your answers you can read the transcript below.

It was a property scam in which a criminal gang made millions of pounds by effectively stealing people’s homes. At the heart of it was a trio of corrupt officials: A land registry clerk, a solicitor, and a bank manager who for legal reasons can’t be identified.
Surjeet Chana worked at the land registry and provided title deeds and owner signatures so they could be forged.
"She’s is now with a very serious depression…"
Her daughter said she was now very ill.
"The thing is she’s not well because even she is not talking to the family either."
Solicitor Charles Spiropolous did the conveyancing using his office to complete the illegal house sales and collect money. The bank manager helped the gang hide their profits.
"Can I talk to you about the case on Friday?"
"Which case?"
He left them use his bank to launder the money they made, nearly four million pounds. The gang searched for homes like this, neglected or abandoned, their owners dead or in care.
The old lady who owns this house died and left it in her will to five different charities. While that complicated legal situation was being sorted out, the house was neglected and became an obvious target for the gang. They boarded it up, changed the locks, then erected an official-looking sign urging the owner to get in touch. If none did, they went ahead and sold the houses, a quick cap price sale usually to an unsuspecting developer. Police don’t know how many they sold.
"The arrogance with which is some way this is carried out… they wouldn’t get detected. But this is not seen as a serious crime but yet when you look at it we have elderly victims, in care homes, whose homes are left there and suddenly being sold underneath them."
The gang leaders at first used a barber shop in Surrey to launder the drugs profits. Then they developed for more sophisticated property fraud. The gang sold this home in Croydon for £140,000. Owner Ann McKendrick said “I have lost my past, much of my identity and reason for existing.”  This house in Wimbledon went for £190,000. Owner Frida Gallagher said she’d been left very confused and in total shock. But at times the gang were moving hold-alls of cash through the corrupt bank manager’s branch. He got 5% on each illegal house sale, when he should have been reporting the gang for money laundering.

Martin Brunt, Sky News, South London.