A multi-million pound counterfeit train ticket scam run by an organised crime gang has ended after its ringleaders were jailed for a total of 24 years.

British Transport Police launched an operation in October 2017 after ticket inspectors in London started spotting the fake train tickets.

The tickets – sold at half the regular price – appeared genuine, worked on ticket barriers, and covered weekly and monthly rail travel between zones one and six.

It is estimated the scam cost rail operators around £8million while it operated between 2016 and 2019.

Two brothers, Stefan and Sorin Covrig, and a third man, Ciprian Buda, all from Chadwell Heath, were the manufacturers of the tickets.

They used blank tickets, card readers, computer programs and printers to produce fake tickets on a massive scale.

When their homes were raided officers seized nearly 60,000 blank tickets, which if turned into counterfeits would fetch up to £20million.

One of its ringleaders, Manuel Da Costa Silva, of Barking, was the distributor and part of an organised crime group which produced and sold the tickets in London.

Silva would receive mass quantities of fake tickets and pass them onto lower level distributors.

DC Nick Barr, of British Transport Police, said: “The actions of this gang pulled money that could’ve been used to fund security, trains and other rail services across London.

“They all made a profit, with the ring leaders earning hundreds of thousands of pounds. This money isn’t theirs to keep and we are using the law to strip them of their assets. We’ve already seized £300,000 worth of homes bought by Stefan Covrig in Romania and taken Silva’s cars.”

Siwan Hayward, director of compliance and policing at TfL, added: “This scam defrauded the public of millions of pounds that should have been invested in the transport network."

The group appeared for sentencing at Inner London Crown Court on Friday, February 14.

Stefan Covrig, 35, of Billet a Road in Chadwell Heath, was jailed for seven years and six months.

Sorin Covrig, 23, of Billet Road, Chadwell Heath, was jailed for four years and six months.

Ciprian Buda, 42, of Billet Road, Chadwell Heath, was jailed for four years and six months.

Manuel Da Costa Silva, 29, of Long Bridge Road, Barking, was jailed for seven years and six months. He was also sentenced for money laundering.

*A police investigation identified nine others working with the group, they were all jailed their varying degrees of involvement.

Ciprian Dumitru-Stefan, 39, of Prince Regent Lane in West Bekton, was jailed for 11 months. He was also sentenced for money laundering.

Yusuf Bello, 27, of Prince Regent Lane in Wesy Beckton, was jailed for 15 months.

Rodney Capemba, 27, of Great Eastern Road, Stratford, was jailed for 18 months.

Mamadu Conte, 31, of Verdant Lane, Lewisham, was jailed for 15 months.

Adrian Morarescu, 49, of Dunkeld Road, Dagenham, was given a 14-month suspended sentence.

Joao Pedro Martins Garcia, 33, of Eade Road, Tottenham, was given a 150-hour community order.

Dong Nguyen, 33, of Wick Road, Hackney, received 120 hours of unpaid work.

Joanna Li, 26, of Meredith Street, Plaistow, received an 11-month suspended sentence and 100 hours of unpaid work.

A member of the group who can’t be named for legal reasons was jailed for 15 months.

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