1 Mar 2015

Illegal immigrant jailed for £100k benefit fraud

An illegal migrant who swindled almost £100,000 of taxpayers’ cash in benefits while evading authorities for 14 years has been jailed for four years.

Lillian Wade, 55, arrived at Gatwick airport from Jamaica in 1999 but was granted only temporary admission.

However, a court heard she stayed on and fraudulently obtained two British passports.

In 2000 she started work as a cleaner at Sandwell Council in the West Midlands under the false name of Yvette Logan.

During her four-year employment she earned £30,000 before she quit due to an injury.

Wade, who lived in Tipton, went on to collect £99,729 in incapacity benefit, income support, employment and support allowance and disability living allowance.

Her applications prompted the Department for Work and Pensions to contact a British woman, also called Yvette Logan, from London, who had claimed benefits, the court heard.

The DWP initially believed there was a mix-up and issued Wade with a new National Insurance number.

She then fraudulently obtained a second passport in the name of Katherine Dunnaway.

By 2013 suspicions were raised and police asked to see her passport.

She handed over the fake passport in the name of Yvette Logan but was not arrested until last November after the DWP carried out an inquiry.

At Wolverhampton Crown Court, Wade admitted cheating the public revenue and obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception by falsely saying she was a British citizen.

Wade also pleaded guilty on Wednesday to being in possession of an identity document with improper intention and possession of a false identity document with intent.

Sentencing her, Judge Helen Hughes said: “You knew you shouldn’t be in this country.”

Howard Searle, prosecuting, said Wade would probably be deported after her sentence.


28 Feb 2015

Benefit cheat hid inheritance & pension

A hospital car volunteer swindled £36,000 in housing benefits by hiding an inheritance and pension in secret bank accounts.

David Yarde claimed housing and council tax benefits on his home in Bideford, North Devon, for seven years when he had so much money in the accounts that he was not entitled to a penny.

He started making his claims honestly but sent Torridge District Council a series of false declarations after he inherited £39,000 from his mother in 2006.

He also failed to tell officials he had received a £25,000 lump sum and a £360 a month private pension because they also mode him ineligible for the benefits.

Yarde, aged 62, of Victoria Garden, Bideford, admitted five counts of fraud and was jailed for six months, suspended for a year and ordered to do 40 hours community payback by Recorder Mr Ignatius Hughes, QC, at Exeter Crown Court.

He was also told to pay £1,115 in costs in addition to the money which he is repaying to the council at £169 per month.

The judge told him: "This was a calculated decision to conceal these windfalls and it was greedy and dishonest. You went into it with open eyes and kept the money away from the authorities by using accounts from which these sums were distributed to you. I accept you did not live the high life but these are times when the government is restricting state assistance to all sorts of people and you were topping up your income at the expense of those who are entitled to it and that is very wrong.”

Ian Graham, for the prosecution, said Yarde claimed benefits from 2006 to 2013, during which time he repeatedly declared his assets to be less than £4,000.

He said during that time he inherited £39,000 from his mother and received a £25,000 lump sum when he partially cashed in a pension. He paid the money into an undeclared account which enabled him to hide if from the council and continue claiming benefits.

Eleanor Purkis, for the defence, said Yarde would be able to carry on repaying the money if he was not sent to jail and has taken work as a newspaper boy to increase his income.

She said he also works as a volunteer driver for patients for which he is only paid expenses.

Miss Purkis said Yarde had not lived the high life with the money but had used it to make ends meet and is now in serious financial difficulties.


27 Feb 2015

Five Cambridgeshire benefit thieves

Five fraudsters must repay more than £50,000 of falsely claimed benefits following a flurry of successful prosecutions by South Cambridgeshire District Council.

The five residents from Cambridge, Longstanton, Waterbeach, Great Shelford and Peterborough were brought to justice for cheating the system last week.

Trudi Johnson, of Longstanton, was given a prison sentence of 18 weeks – suspended for 18 months – after falsely claiming £10,325 in council tax benefit, income support and jobseeker’s allowance. The 45-year-old pleaded guilty to 11 charges of making dishonest claims for benefits from the council between 2000 and 2011 – and a charge of dishonestly making a false statement to the DWP in 2010. When making her claims for benefit, Ms Johnson did not declare that she owned other properties – one which she received rent from. On top of her sentence and repayment of the benefits, she was ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £800 in costs.

Meanwhile, Karen Moore, from Cambridge, admitted failing to report changes in circumstances when she changed work to a higher paid job and didn’t tell the council that her daughter who lived with her had started work. This led to overpayments of housing and council tax benefit worth £6,952. The 47-year-old will complete 150 hours of unpaid work and pay costs of £230.

Dawn Lennie,  from Waterbeach, admitted making a false claim to obtain benefit as she did not declare that she was receiving a private pension, resulting in £9,742 in housing and council tax benefit. The 56-year-old was sentenced to a curfew order for six months and ordered to pay £220 costs.

Barbara Tindley, from Great Shelford, also pleaded guilty to dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefits as she had been receiving payments from her husband whom she had separated from but had not declared this, causing an overpayment of housing benefit of £13,722 and council tax benefits and income support of £2,056. The 49-year-old was sentenced to a community order, 100 hours unpaid work, costs of £230 and a victim surcharge of £60.


26 Feb 2015

Light sentences for Bromley benefit thieves

Three people will have to pay tens of thousands of pounds back to Bromley Council after being caught committing benefit fraud.

Jibike Adelagun, Roger Byrne and Lindsey Thorpe will have to repay all the money they falsely claimed.

Adelagun, 49, defrauded the council out of £22,630 in housing and council tax benefit between August 2011 and June 2014 by not declaring that she had three jobs. She was also ordered to do 170 hours’ unpaid community work and pay £575 costs.

Byrne, 62, did not declare that he was a company director and receiving a pension, thereby defrauding the council out of £2,908 in housing benefit from December 2012 to February last year. He was also fined £145 and ordered to pay £575 in costs and a victim surcharge of £20.

Thorpe, 36, defrauded the council out of £20,166 in housing and council tax benefit from April 2011 to June last year, after not declaring various sources of income and a salary increase. She was ordered to do 80 hours’ unpaid community work and pay £575 costs.

All three admitted fraud at Bromley Magistrates’ Court.


25 Feb 2015

Royal Marine bodyguard in £49k benefits swindle

A former Royal Marine swindled £49,000 in benefits by claiming he was too injured to walk while working as a bodyguard in the Middle East. (h/t Dave)

Paul White told doctors he was crippled by pain while playing golf and going to the gym, Exeter Crown Court heard.

White, 46, got a higher rate of pension because of his supposed disability.

He was jailed for two years, suspended for two years, ordered to do 300 hours unpaid community work and repay the £49,000 with £2,500 costs.

When investigators called at White's home in Bunkersland, near Tiverton, he was away working as a guard on ships in the Arabian Gulf.

Judge Phillip Wassall said: "You were working in seaborne security and as a bodyguard at the time you were claiming disability benefits but you were also playing golf and doing 10 kilometre runs in less than an hour. At the time you were maintaining the claim that you were only capable of walking 25 metres and that with the aid of a stick. The dishonesty went on for six years and was breathtaking."

He ordered White to repay the money at £1,500 a month, which means he should clear the debt in less than three years.

David Sapiecha, for the prosecution, said White was invalided out of the Royal Marines in 2001 with a back injury.

He said the fraud was committed against the Service Personnel and Veterans Agency, which assessed White as qualifying for the higher rate of allowance in 2003.

The court heard an orthopaedic expert concluded either White had initially lied about the injury or it had improved significantly between 2001 and 2006.

Lee Bremridge, for the defence, said White had suffered a prolapsed disc which was a genuine injury to his back and his initial claims were genuine.


24 Feb 2015

Keys amnesty reaches Slough

Local authorities sometimes move slowly. After Cornwall, word of keys amnesties has reached Slough.

An amnesty is being held in Slough in order to give tenants who are illegally subletting their council homes the chance to hand their keys back.

Those who wish to avoid prosecution for tenancy fraud, a crime which could land offenders in jail or with a hefty fine, will be able to drop their keys in to the council between March 1 and 31, with no questions asked.

The keys must be placed in an envelope with the property’s address clearly written on it and dropped in the key amnesty box at MyCouncil, in Landmark Place.

A major crackdown on tenants who cheat the system will be launched in April with council officers stepping up doorstep checks, using electronic document readers to verify tenants’ details and working with the National Fraud initiative to weed out fraudulent housing applications.

“This amnesty will give anyone who has been subletting their council property for whatever reason the chance to make a clean break,” said tenancy fraud officer, John Moores. “It’s also an opportunity for people to tell us if they don’t use their council property as their main home or have moved in with a partner. After the amnesty we will be cracking down hard on tenancy fraudsters, prosecuting any cases we come across. So this really is the last chance to come clean without the fear of being taken to court.”

For every illegally sublet property, the council pays around £20,000 a year to find alternative accommodation for a family who could otherwise be housed.

“We have such a huge demand for social housing in Slough, with nearly 2,000 households in need and waiting for a council house,” said Cllr James Swindlehurst, deputy leader and commissioner for neighbourhoods and renewal. “Each property returned to the council will mean a new home for one of these families and money saved to the council for other things. Sometimes tenants have let friends use their property while they’re away, leading to a longer term arrangement involving an exchange of cash rather than any pre-planned criminality. However, tenancy fraud is a serious crime, not to mention a breach of our tenancy agreement, and its one we’re not willing to turn a blind eye to. The likelihood is that we’ll catch up with you sooner or later, so do the right thing and drop your keys back with no questions asked while you still can.”


23 Feb 2015

Benefit fraudster given "financial life sentence"

The future earnings of a benefits fraudster have been seized by the Scottish Crown Office under the terms of a “financial life ­sentence”.

The Crown secured a “nominal” £1 confiscation order against a benefits fraudster – meaning that any future earnings will be reclaimed as criminal profits from her if appropriate.

Shaleena Ahmed, 32, from Pollockshields in Glasgow, was made the subject of a confiscation order after claiming more than £16,000 of benefits which she was not entitled to. As Ahmed had no money to pay up, the court made an order for the “nominal” amount of £1.

The purpose of this order is to maintain the Crown’s position, so that if the accused obtains any assets in the future, the court can be asked to recalculate the ­confiscation order up to the amount the guilty party benefited from the crime.

Lindsey Miller, procurator- fiscal for organised crime and counter-terrorism, said
:The Crown is dedicated to recovering proceeds of crime wherever possible. However, sometimes an accused simply has no assets with which to pay, or it may be more appropriate for them to repay their victims. In these cases, we use the powers of the Proceeds of Crime Act to ask that their full illegal profit is formally recorded by the court and a nominal order for £1 is made against them. This ensures that the Crown can go back to the court should the accused obtain any assets in the future, or fail to repay their victims, and raise the confiscation order up to the total amount they made from their criminal activity.

20 Feb 2015

False claim to be a single parent leads to suspended sentence

A woman who made false statements about her single parent status in a claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit was sentenced to six months custody, suspended for two years, at Hammersmith Magistrates Court after previously pleading guilty to five counts of dishonestly claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. (h/t A Reader)

The court heard how when Erika Fletcher Sanchez first claimed benefit in 2004 she told the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that she was a single mother. However, the Council questioned her relationship status when she had two further children in 2010 and 2011 with different surnames. Fletcher Sanchez made a number of written statements insisting that she still lived alone.

It was later discovered, as part of an investigation by the Council’s Corporate Investigation Group, that Fletcher Sanchez had in fact married Mr Fabian Andres Restrepo Bonilla in Colombia in September 2010. Upon their return to the UK, they had lived together at Longridge Road.

This prompted the Council to call Fletcher Sanchez in for an interview under caution in March 2014. During her interview Fletcher Sanchez exercised her right to make no comment but she did provide a written statement in which there was no mention of her husband.

Sentencing Fletcher Sanchez, the magistrates said that because of her early guilty plea they would not be sending her case to Crown Court, where her sentence could have been greater. They also said that while the fraud was committed over a long period and involved a large sum of money her claim had not been fraudulent from the outset but that Fletcher Sanchez had provided false explanations. However, they had seen her references and the pre-sentence report and noted she was of previous good character.

As a result of her making false statements in support of her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claim, Fletcher Sanchez received £22,783 in Housing Benefit, £2,023 in Council Tax Benefit and £978 in Council Tax reduction to which she was not entitled. This overpayment stretched from September 2010 (when she got married) to May 2014.

As well as the suspended custodial sentence a contribution to costs of £750 was awarded, along with a victim surcharge of £80 and unpaid work of 200 hours (the latter to be completed within 12 months).


19 Feb 2015

Two social housing frauds

Two women registered on Northampton Borough Council’s housing waiting list have been handed hefty fines - after it was revealed both lied about their links to properties in London.

The cases, which were both heard at Northampton Magistrates' Court, saw both offenders ordered to each pay fines of £500, costs of £500 and £50 victim surcharges.

In one case, Dilara Begum was prosecuted under the Housing Act after making an application for housing in Northampton and failing to declare that she already owned a property in London.

In the second, Sandra Brown was found to be sub-letting a council property she was renting in London - despite being allocated a council property in Northampton.

Brown was prosecuted under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act – the council’s first prosecution under the new act.

Speaking about the cases, Councillor Mary Markham (Con, Obelisk) deputy leader and Northampton Borough Council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “The council is committed to ensuring vigorous checks are carried out in relation to applications for social housing and this process helps to ensure that properties are allocated to people with a genuine need. Robust action will be taken against anyone submitting false applications.”


Social housing fraud is the most wicked form of welfare fraud. The sums that can be saved are huge, but it's so much more than the money - needy families are being deprived of the chance to have a settled home that suits their needs.

18 Feb 2015

Benefit fraud is this easy

A 67-year-old woman who continued claiming benefits despite having more than £100,000 in the bank has been given a suspended prison sentence. (h/t Dave)

Blackburn magistrates heard Hilary Lee told the DWP she only had savings of £500 during a telephone interview.

And the fraudulent claim led to an overpayment of more than £20,000 in housing, council tax and pension benefits.

Lee, of Broadfield, Oswaldtwistle, pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefit.

She was sentenced to 18 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, made subject to a curfew between 10pm and 5am for three months and she was also ordered to pay £165 costs.

Catherine Allan, prosecuting, said the claims had been fraudulent from the start in 2009 until May 2014:
In essence she has failed to declare to the Department of Work and Pensions and Hyndburn Borough Council that she owned a second property. She inherited the house in 2008 and sold it for £117,000 in 2012. She told officers she only had £500 in savings and has therefore helped herself to £20,254 of tax payers money.
Deborah Morgan, defending, said her client had no previous convictions and all the money had been repaid.

She said that after inheriting the property Lee still considered it her dad’s house. “She did nothing with it for ten years and it was always her intention to move back into that house. You are not going to see her before the court again. This has been extremely traumatic for her and she is genuinely remorseful.”


Just one lie over the phone, and you're quids in.