24 Aug 2016

A bizarre case of sub-letting

An ‘eccentric’ retired teacher has been branded a benefits cheat and ordered to pay £1,750 after renting out his one-bedroom council flat on Airbnb. (h/t Dave)

Anthony Whewell, 64, earned more than £9,000 by letting out the tiny apartment in Bury, Greater Manchester, as a ‘bed and breakfast’ for almost four years.

He advertised the ‘former local authority flat’ on the website, charging £30 per night, £200 per week or £700 per month. Whewell received numerous positive reviews for his ‘friendly B&B at my place in Bury’ with visitors praising his hospitality and one calling him ‘a wonderful host’.

He even stayed up until midnight to welcome another guest, but one customer complained that a hot tub Whewell claimed was included was ‘really just a bath’. He told council investigators that he withdrew the hot tub description as a result.

But Whewell has now pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful subletting of a secure tenancy and fraud by false representation - although he avoided jail.

He began living in the flat in 2011 and started subletting it as a B&B in July 2012. It is believed that his own rent, payable to Six Town Housing, was around £65 per week, meaning he made a decent profit.

Whewell used the money he made to pay for luxury goods including a £2,000 sound system and top up his private pension fund, Bury Magistrates Court heard, which the council said ‘grew by thousands of pounds’.

Bury Council, which took the case to court, said the flat was sublet by the ex-teacher for around 500 nights until he was caught out in March this year. On occasions, customers rented out the flat for blocks at a time or for just single nights. He made breakfast for the tenants unless they had rented the entire flat for their exclusive use. But if they rented just the room, Whewell would sleep on a sofa bed in the living room or stay with his elderly father, who he cares for full-time.

Bury Council said Whewell ‘fraudulently ran a bed and breakfast business’ from his council flat while also claiming pension credit and housing benefit'.

He pleaded guilty to charges of unlawful subletting of a secure tenancy and fraud by false representation.

He was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work and £750 court costs. He must pay back £1,000 to the council.

He also received an 18-month suspended possession order on condition of good behaviour. He risks being kicked out over future bad behaviour or any illegality.

Whewell - who describes himself as ‘jovial and bookish’ - was away on a walking holiday when a reporter called round. However, his wife, Martha, explained that he had made the legal error due to his naivety. She described him as a ‘lovely eccentric man’ and added that he had listed the flat for around nine months before anyone actually stayed there. She said the flat was no longer listed on Airbnb.

Bury's deputy council leader Jane Lewis said those who defraud the system will be prosecuted. She added: 'There are approximately 8,000 people on our housing waiting list and it is absolutely imperative that social housing properties go to the people who need them most.'

Source with pictures

22 Aug 2016

Bodybuilder was £39k benefit thief who claimed she couldn't walk

A benefits cheat who said she couldn't walk and fraudulently claimed almost £40,000 avoided jail after she was caught competing as a Miss Universe bodybuilder. (h/t Dave)

Maria Hughes, 45, dubbed herself "Miss Strict Muscle" on her website, but told the Department of Work and Pensions she could only walk three metres.

The scrounger had suffered from arthritis since childhood and her initial claim was genuine, but she failed to notify authorities that she could regularly bench press 70kg. When she served time for drug offences in 2010 she went to the gym five times a week and even asked for extra protein.

Hughes, also known as Maria Glazowska, of Meir, Stoke-on-Trent, appeared in a wheelchair at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court on Friday (19/8).

She admitted three charges of benefits fraud between April 2009 and October 2014 totalling £39,743 and was jailed for eight months suspended for two years.

Sentencing, Judge David Fletcher told her: "You are someone who has had a chequered life. It has been beset by not only physical problems but also psychological ones. But you were overpaid almost £40,000 from the public purse. People who are ill or disabled but continue to work would be shocked and offended by your behaviour."

He added that she was a "complex individual", and he felt there was sufficient mitigation for him to take the unusual step of imposing a suspended sentence.

Prosecutor Guy Mathieson said: "She claimed she was only able to walk three metres, she would have to use a walking stick, and she required daily care with personal matters like getting in and out of bed, getting dressed and chores. But in 2009 observations made it perfectly clear that whatever had been the original basis of the claim, that position was no longer the case as Miss Hughes was much more physically able than she had maintained."

Hughes served a short prison sentence in 2010 for drug offences, during which she was a regular in the gym.

Mr Mathieson said: "By that time she had become extremely muscular and stated she had the ambition to take part in bodybuilding competitions. She was an orderly in the gym and worked there five days a week, and at no point suggested she had any disability. She worked out on a regular basis, bench pressing up to 70kg and running on the treadmill. She made an application for special treatment to be given extra protein - she stated she had been working very hard for six years to build up muscle to qualify to compete once she was released."

Following her release Hughes had her own website under the name Miss Strict Muscle and held private sessions that were "extremely physical in nature". Mr Mathieson said: "She described herself on the website as 'not just a superwoman, but a hard-core superwoman'."

Hughes appeared in videos and magazines while taking part in national bodybuilding competitions, and came sixth in the Miss Physique category of Miss Universe.

Following an investigation she was arrested and interviewed.

Mr Mathieson said she claimed she was still suffering from "a huge number of ailments" and the claims on her website were "self-aggrandisement".

Hughes admitted failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in her circumstances, which she knew would affect her entitlement to support relating to Disability Living Allowance, Employment Support Allowance and Income Support.

She has 16 previous convictions for dishonesty, drugs offences and loitering for the purposes of being a prostitute.

William Beardmore, defending, said Hughes suffered from body issues as a result of her upbringing. He said this led to her taking nutrition and exercise "to the extreme", and she had used drugs to promote her muscle growth. Mr Beardmore said: "She had been in a toxic relationship and in 2012 she was made bankrupt. There were a number of factors playing on her mind."

Source, with pictures if you want them

19 Aug 2016

Man sublet Ilford flat in social housing fraud

A man who featured in the Ilford Recorder three years ago for waiting 11 years for a council flat has been found guilty for illegally subletting it.

Richard Kagumya, 33, from Woodford Green, was found guilty on two counts of fraud and one count of subletting a social housing property at Barkingside Magistrates’ Court on August 5.

In May 2013 the Recorder ran a story about Mr Kagumya’s 11 year wait for a council home.

Genesis Housing subsequently let a one bed property in Heron Mews, Ilford, to Mr Kagumya in June 2013 for a social rent of £400 a month and he began subletting the flat for double that price in February the following year.

As a result, Mr Kagumya, who was also in receipt of housing benefit, made a profit of £7,000 from the rent and benefit payments before the fraud was detected in October 2014.

Genesis tenancy fraud officer Michael Evans said: “Prior to his conviction Mr Kagumya had genuinely been in need of affordable housing. He had previously approached Redbridge Council and even brought his case to the attention of local newspapers as he felt that the social housing scheme had failed him. Mr Kagumya failed to declare to us and Redbridge Council that his circumstances had changed. Instead he chose instead to illegally rent the property and live elsewhere. There is a desperate shortage of affordable housing in the UK and with so many people and families on the waiting list it really is not fair when someone abuses the system in this way.”

A Redbridge Council spokesman added: “This case is another example that shows if you commit fraud in Redbridge, you will be caught and punished. Fraud has a negative impact on all our residents, as it takes money away from vital frontline services provided to people who really need them."

After several years!

Mr Kagumya was given a community order of 100 hours of unpaid work in the next 12 months as well as being ordered to pay £1,979.38 and £5,057.44 to Redbridge Council and Genesis Housing respectively.

18 Aug 2016

Has anything bad happened to this criminal gypsy?

A widow who fraudulently claimed more than £64,000 of state benefits after she remarried claimed she was in an 'open relationship'. (h/t Dave)

Shannon Ford, 44, continued to claim Widowed Parents' Allowance after she married Brian Armstrong in 2005.

But when it emerged she had been cheating the system, Ford, a member of the travelling community, said she had not wanted to declare her marriage as she would be shunned by her community, in which widows are not expected to remarry. She also insisted the marriage was an open relationship and that both had been involved with other people, in what was described to the court as an ‘on and off’ relationship.

Between 2005 and 2014, Ford claimed £30,820.89 of Widow’s Allowance and £34,820.79 of Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit from Lancaster City Council and Craven District Council.

Throughout that period, she changed address a number of times and updated her details with the authorities, but failed to mention she was now married. As a married mother she would no longer be entitled to the benefits she was claiming.

Ford, of Moor View in Lower Bentham, pleaded guilty to seven counts of benefit fraud. Her defence lawyer, Nicola Hall, said she had notified the authorities of her change in circumstances as she had limited literacy, and relied on family members to help with filling out forms. But Judge Simon Newell, sentencing, pointed out that she had given her occupation as a secretary when she registered her marriage.

Cecilia Pritchard, prosecuting, said: “Some of the claims were fraudulent from the outset. There have been false declarations when she was capable of doing so. She had advised of a change of address on a number of occasions.”

The court heard Ford has four children and is the primary carer for her youngest child, who is disabled.

Judge Newell accepted that during the period Ford was claiming benefits, there would have been times when she would have been eligible and times when the claim was fraudulent, due to the instability in the marriage.

He handed her a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.


15 Aug 2016

Woman fabricated children's illnesses to claim benefits

A woman who fabricated illnesses in her two children so that she could claim £375,000 in benefits has been jailed for seven and a half years.

The 48-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, forced her children to have surgery they did not need as part of a 10-year fraud. She tricked doctors into fitting gastronomy tubes to their stomachs even though both children were able to eat normally.

She was sentenced following a conviction last month at Croydon crown court for child cruelty and fraud offences.

DS Stuart Parsons said after her sentencing on Monday: “It is staggering to think that the mother’s wilful actions resulted in the children undergoing unnecessary surgical and medical interventions. She lied at every opportunity, presenting herself as a lone parent coping with ill and vulnerable children. The reality was that she resided with her partner and fabricated her children’s conditions for personal financial gain".

Over at least 10 years, the mother presented her son and daughter to doctors and education professionals, maintaining that they suffered from serious health conditions.

Between October 2003 and February 2014 she falsely claimed £375,198 in disability living allowances and income support. This was despite living with her partner, who earned £38,000 a year.

She forced her children to fake symptoms of illnesses, ranging from asthma to autism and urology problems, to secure her benefits.

Steroids were given to her son even though he did not have severe asthma, as she claimed. She also had her son mimic behaviour consistent with autism and, as part of the fraud, resisted attempts by the child’s nursery to toilet-train him.

The trial was the culmination of a three-year investigation. Police raided the woman’s home and arrested her in May 2013 after suspicions of fraud were raised. During the search they found a large quantity of items with an estimated cost to the NHS of £145,870, including asthma drugs and feeding equipment.

The woman was found guilty of four counts of cruelty to a person under 16, two counts of obtaining money transfer by deception, seven counts of making a false representation, and two counts of fraud by false representation.


11 Aug 2016

Not a great start to a career in law!

A student from Brent who illegally sublet her council house for four years has been sentenced to 130 hours of community service after an investigation by Brent Council's fraud team.

Kusheema Nurse, 26, did not tell Brent Housing Partnership (BHP), which manages council houses on Brent Council's behalf, that she had moved out of her council flat on Mordaunt Road after gaining a place at university in Bristol to study Law.

Nurse had been given the one-bedroom flat by the council in August 2010 – two months after secretly starting a part-time job 120 miles away in Bristol.

In June 2014, Nurse’s sub-tenant approached BHP to complain about being evicted without notice and told them that he had been renting the property since April 2011. Although Nurse had not given him a tenancy agreement or receipts for his rent payments, he had redecorated the entire flat at his own expense.

An investigation by the council’s fraud team followed, revealing that Nurse had started her Law degree at the University of the West of England in Bristol in September 2011.

It also showed that she had been employed in part-time jobs in Bristol between 2010 and 2013 and that a young woman was rescued from the flat by the fire brigade in February 2014 after a small fire broke out. The woman, a friend of the subtenant, did not know Nurse, who also failed to report the fire to BHP.

When interviewed under caution and asked for an explanation, Nurse chose not to comment.

She was prosecuted at Harrow Crown Court for offences under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and the Fraud Act 2006, with Nurse claiming in court that she travelled to Bristol on a daily basis and continued to live full time at her Mordaunt Road flat. The jury did not believe her and found her guilty, with the judge sentencing her to 130 hours of community service, adjourned for three months to allow her to take her final university exams.

BHP is now in the process of repossessing the property from Nurse.

Cllr Harbi Farah, Brent Council’s lead member for housing, said: "Sub-letting social housing isn’t just selfish – it’s illegal. It clogs up desperately needed accommodation while lining the pockets of people who falsely claim to be in need. Brent Council and BHP will be relentless in our pursuit of fraudsters like Ms Nurse, ensuring that council homes go to those who have the right to live in one."


10 Aug 2016

Jail for deliberate benefit fraud

A benefits cheat from Oldbury has been jailed for 15 months after fiddling more than £30,000.

Mark Cornfield, aged 60, claimed housing and council tax benefits, stating he was jobless and without assets.

But all the time he was picking up money from two private pensions and during the five year period of his fraud received £19,300 from them.

Judge Amjad Nawaz told Cornfield, who had a previous conviction for fraud, the benefits system had to rely on the honesty of the claimants.

He said Cornfield had taken advantage of the system from the outset and his fraud was "deliberate" because he told the authorities he was receiving no pension payments.

Cornfield admitted four charges of benefit fraud and the judge ruled his offending was so serious only an immediate jail term was appropriate.

Michael Grey, prosecuting, told Wolverhampton Crown Court that Cornfield made his false claims between May 2009 and September 2014 and was paid a total of £30,446. But during that period he picked up £16,800 from one of his private pensions and a further £2,500 from the second.

Henry Skudra, defending, said Cornfield had repaid £4,400 back the Department of Work and Pensions and he was "doing his best" to keep making payments. He said Cornfield was full of remorse and had "simply not put his mind" to the issue when he made his claims.

But the judge said it must have been obvious to Cornfield that he was acting dishonesty because when he filled in his claim forms he made it clear he was not receiving any pension payments.


5 Aug 2016

Benefit claimant didn't disclose £40k inheritance

A Thornaby woman failed to disclose an inheritance of more than £40,000 while still claiming benefits, a court heard.

Single mum Caroline Painter, previously of Thirsk, pleaded guilty at Northallerton Magistrates Court to four offences, including failing to inform Hambleton District Council that she had received an inheritance of £40,406 while claiming housing benefit and council tax reduction.

The 42-year-old also admitted giving false information on forms relating to the claims.

Painter was given a 12 month community order, during which time she will have to carry out 100 hours of unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay £250 as a contribution to the council’s legal costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

She is also responsible for repaying the overpaid housing benefit of £3646.26, and repaying the £440.88 reduction she was granted through the council tax reduction scheme.

A Hambleton Council spokesperson said the case was part of the authority’s “ongoing campaign to stamp out benefit fraud.”


3 Aug 2016

Deaf couple told to repay £700k from disability allowance scam

A profoundly deaf couple who made almost £2million from a disability allowance scam and spent the cash on a lavish lifestyle have been ordered to repay £700,000.

Shahab, 53, and Shehnaz Reza, 55, used cash intended for society’s most vulnerable to pay for holidays across the globe and jewellery.

Mr Reza persuaded his wife, along with his son Dr Abbas Reza, 27, to take part in his scheme by submitting fake invoices for sign language interpreters. Cash was splurged on a luxury home, a £600,000 penthouse, gold jewellery, an £8,000 ‘flawless’ diamond, a holiday to Dubai and a ‘student jolly’ to America.

The husband and wife have now been ordered by a judge at Southwark Crown Court to repay £702,402.70 of their profits or face extra time in jail.

Shabab, jailed for nine years in February last year after he admitted conspiracy to defraud, benefited to the tune of £1,017,811.31. Shehnaz, who sat in the public gallery after serving her 22 month jail sentence, profited by £909,389.28, the court heard.

The couple were ordered to repay a sizeable chunk of the profits after questions were raised about possible offshore assets.

Cash from the scam, which ran between 2009 and 2011, was spent on property, jewellery, holidays and investments.

Shahab and Shehnaz also lied about the family’s financial circumstances to Harrow Council, netting nearly £100,000 in benefits and tax exemptions between June 2002 and August 2010.

Shehnaz was previously described as having the reading level of an eight-year-old and may have been coerced into committing the fraud by Shahab, who had a previous conviction for assaulting his wife.

Jailing Shehnaz for 22 months, Judge John Price had said: ‘Mrs Reza is profoundly deaf, has been all her life and she was under the influence of her husband. He provided a substantial lifestyle for the family, they lived well and she took part in that, and by her plea she admits being part of that.’

Abbas Reza – who is not deaf – had really struggled for cash during his studies to become a doctor. He was previously handed a six month sentence suspended for 18 months after the judge agreed he had been ‘under the influence’ of his father.

The cash was laundered through accounts in Canada, the United Arab Emirates and the UK and then spent on luxuries.

Shehnaz regularly claimed business expenses despite not appearing to do any work and Abbas was claiming for his mobile phone insurance.

Shahab orchestrated the four-year con by submitting fake invoices for sign language interpreters to the Department of Work and Pensions through the Access to Work scheme. The accountant set up six sham companies to claim thousands a month in bogus fees on the basis of the fraudulent claim forms.

But he had to widen the pool of people the cash was being paid to so Shahab used his connection with his mosque and the training college UCanDoIt to recruit further fraud members.

He recruited the family’s cleaner Daiva Alisaskaite, 44, and a second woman, Natela Babina, 32, to submit false invoices as ’employees’ of the company.

Neither of them ever required an interpreter or support worker yet they submitted false claims worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Alisauskaite made £8,000 while Babina pocketed £9,500, after they collectively submitted 48 false claims over 23 months.

They were both handed 12-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, after being found guilty of fraud by false representation.

Following a trial Shehnaz Reza was found guilty of fraud by false representation, obtaining money transfer by deception, and dishonestly obtaining exemption from paying council tax. Their son Abbas denied and was convicted of one count of fraud by false representation.

Shehnaz and Abbas had admitted one charge of conspiracy to defraud to avoid a retrial. Abbas further pleaded guilty to a charge of transferring criminal property relating to £50,000 he transferred from his HSBC account to his dad.

Jurors were also unable to reach verdicts on daughter Zainab Reza, 24, who faced charges of conspiracy to defraud and failing to disclose their her financial position to the Student Loans Company. The charges against her were ordered to lie on file.

Shahab Reza was ordered to repay £598,682.01 of his £1,017,811.31 profit within six months or face an extra four years in jail.

Shehnaz Reza must pay back £103,719.69 of her £909,389.28 benefit in the same time period or face an extra two years and three months behind bars.


1 Aug 2016

More benefit fraud bluster from Lord Freud

Scheming white collar workers helped send the UK’s benefit fraud bill up by £500 million last year.

Thousands of middle class Brits are feared to be using their respectable images to file bogus disability claims.

The Sun on Sunday obtained details of five professionals who stole more than £250,000 in total.

They include London beautician Carina Reid, 32, who was jailed for three years for pocketing £50,000 in benefits while travelling the world.

Dr Sandra Turnbull, 45, of Newcastle, took £22,000 in disability benefits due to “problems walking” — while posting snaps of her hiking and scuba diving on Facebook. She had to pay back the cash and got a community sentence.

And teacher Kelly Upton, of Burton, Staffs, was told to return the £15,000 she stole for a bad back.

They listed three and then got bored and stopped.

Welfare Minister Lord Freud warned: “The convictions highlight that there is nowhere to hide. Our investigators will catch ALL those who cheat the taxpayer. The convictions of these white-collar criminals who have abused the system highlight that there is nowhere to hide. It’s only a small minority of people, but we are clear that stealing from taxpayers is a serious crime which diverts funds from those in need and it will not be tolerated.”

This is bluster and Lord Freud knows it.

Benefit cheats are now costing the country £30 million a week in false claims, according to latest DWP figures.

Welfare fraud rose cost taxpayers £1.6 billion last year – up £500 million on 2014-15.

More of taxpayers’ money is now lost to fraud than the Foreign Office’s entire annual budget of £1.1billion.

Last year, 5,000 people from all walks of life were convicted of benefit fraud, with a further 6,000 given on-the-spot penalties.