Nagina Naseem, 30, admitted three counts of making dishonest housing benefit claims after handing the cash over to the brother-in-law landlord of her home in St Saviours Road, Alum Rock.
The mum was handed a suspended eight-month prison sentence after a judge ruled that her two very young children could be taken into care and would suffer emotional difficulties.
Mark Jackson, prosecuting, said the unemployed single mum had claimed £37,470 of housing benefit between August 2007 and March 2013 and was caught out by investigators from Birmingham City Council. When interviewed, Naseem claimed that the uncle of her two children was not a blood relative, but admitted later that the fraudulent claims had been “dishonest from the outset.” She pleaded guilty to failing to declare that her brother-in-law was a relation on three separate occasions in 2007, 2008 and 2011. Mr Q’ureshi, for Ms Naseem, said:
This happened at a very traumatic time in her life. She was having difficulties in the relationship with her husband and was ostracised by her family. She was in a very difficult position and turned to her brother-in-law. It does not excuse the false declarations that she made and she is very remorseful and fearful of what might happen. She is a single mum with two children aged four and six. She is in receipt of benefits and cannot afford the rent and is now looking for somewhere else to live.Judge Simon Carr said:
The taxpayer has lost nearly £40,000 which the public purse can ill-afford to lose in these difficult financial times. There are two matters of mitigation. The first is that you have made admissions and the second is that you have two very young children who will lose their mother if I pass an immediate custodial sentence. The children will likely to be taken into care, which could lead to even further public expense and emotional difficulties for them. I do accept that your children mean everything to you. Nevertheless it does warrant a custodial sentence of eight months, which I am going to suspend for 12 months.Naseem was also placed under 12-month supervision and ordered to complete a 30-day women’s project.
Councillor Ian Ward, Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council, said:
It is staggering that someone would attempt to defraud the public purse of so much money. This case shows that if you commit benefit fraud, we can and will catch you – and the consequences include a criminal record which means there is a long term impact on offenders. We will also seek to recover every penny anyone takes from the system that they were not legitimately entitled to.Her brother-in-law doesn't seem to have been a good person to turn to - she evidently knew she had to lie to the authorities about the family relationship in order to get money for him.
The Judge suggested that she could have been sent to prison for stealing £37,000 - which is highly unlikely.
And if you commit benefit fraud in Birmingham, it's just not true that Councillor Ian Ward will catch you. He only has a few staff to police and prosecute the thousands claiming benefit in Birmingham each year.
In essence, benefits enforcement is a pretence supported by lying.