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'Office' fan foils Ricky Gervais ID theft scam

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A dodgy impersonation tripped up a gang of ID fraudsters accused of plundering £200,000 from the bank account of comedian Ricky Gervais, a London court heard yesterday. The gang allegedly obtained Gervais's personal details from an insider at NatWest bank before forging a passport in his name to facilitate their scam.

But the ruse fell apart when a gang member posing as Gervais phoned a gold bullion dealer, Anthony Baird. Baird - a fan of hit comedy The Office in which Gervais plays boss-from-hell David Brent - smelled a rat and called the police. The alleged fraudsters were arrested when they turned up to collect the 27kg of gold they thought they'd purchased.

Wood Green Crown Court heard the gang targeted Gervais with the help of Sharonjeet Snober, 28, a former team leader at NatWest's Southampton call centre, who allegedly changed passwords and phone detail records held by NatWest about the comedian, The Guardian reports. The group previously bought £127,000 of gold from another bullion company using money lifted from an account held by a doctor and his wife and attempted to rip off a businessman for £30,000, prosecutors allege.

Snober and co-accused Mushtaq Javed, 43, the boss of a Gatwick courier company; Craig Reeves, 30, of Alton, Hampshire; Harry Peach, 57, of Leatherhill, Surrey and homeless Kenneth Speight, 39, all deny conspiracy to defraud between February and April 2003. The case continues. ®

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