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24 Sep 2018

Parent pretended to be tenant

A Great Yarmouth couple were involved in making fraudulent benefit claims amounting to £19,000 using a false tenancy agreement to pretend they were not in a relationship, a court heard.

Shannon Trett, 22, and Charles Dersley, 31, were at the time living together in Great Yarmouth and had a child together, but Dersley drew up a false tenancy agreement pretending to be her landlord, so Trett would be eligible to falsely claim thousands of pounds in housing benefit, Norwich Crown Court heard.

The court was told when challenged about the arrangement of charging rent to his partner, Dersley had said: “Nothing is free in this life.”

Trett admitted falsely claiming almost £12,000 in housing benefit and falsely claiming more than £7,000 in income support, by not revealing she was living with Dersley between January 2014 and February 2016.

Dersley admitted making a tenancy agreement to assist or commit fraud in January 2014 and July 2013. They gave different addresses in Great Yarmouth.

Judge Moore said that Dersley had played a prime role in the fraud by drawing up the false tenancy agreement.

She accepted Trett had been in a troubled relationship with Dersley at the time of the offences and was vulnerable but told her: “You accept you ought to have made it plain you were living in the house with him and he was the father of your son.”

She said instead she pretended he was her landlord and not part of the family unit.

Judge Moore said the fraud had gone on for some time, amounting to 127 weeks.

She said she considered Dersley to be a “prime mover” in the fraud and while Trett had been open when challenged, she said Dersley when asked why he was charging rent to his partner had replied: “Nothing is free in this life.”

She imposed a five month jail sentence, suspended for 21 months, for Trett, with 21 months supervision.

She jailed Dersley for 12 months, suspended for 21 months, with 21 months supervision.

She also ordered him to do 180 hours unpaid work.

She said she hoped he would not behave in this way again.

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21 Sep 2018

Councillor committed benefit fraud

A former politician who defrauded the public purse of thousands of pounds has been given a suspended jail term.

Former Fylde councillor Albert Pounder, 74, who represented the Conservative party, claimed housing and disability benefits he was not entitled to, lying on a claim form that walking short distances made him "breathless". But under secret surveillance he was seen walking unaided, folding and carrying a table, at Staining Field Day in 2015.

Judge Beverley Lunt, sitting at Preston Crown Court, imposed 26 weeks in jail but agreed to suspend it for a year. However, for the next three months the disgraced politician will be subject to an electronically tagged curfew. He must also pay a £115 surcharge.

Pounder had denied claiming £10,422,60 in disability living allowance between August 2014 and May 2016, and £467.23 of housing benefit from Fylde Council - the authority he represented - between April 2016 and May 2016.

But jurors at Preston Crown Court found him guilty of two charges of benefit fraud following his trial, agreeing he dishonestly failed to notify the authorities about his true mobility and care needs.

Pounder represented the village of Staining and was made portfolio holder on Fylde Council for customer and operational services before retiring on health grounds last year.

The court previously heard he has been in receipt of DLA since 1996 and was receiving the high rate mobility component of £57.45 per week and a middle rate care component of £55.10. In a DLA form in 1995 Mr Pounder said walking short distances made him "breathless", and he needed to "rest to regain my breath". He said he could only walk 50 yards before he felt severe discomfort, needed assistance getting out of the bath, and with washing his hair, and sometimes needed help climbing stairs. Suspicious DWP officers, authorised to carry out surveillance, spotted him walking up steps to the Town Hall without any walking aid.

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19 Sep 2018

Jail for illegal sub-letting

A housing association tenant has been sentenced to 14 months in jail after being caught subletting.

Anthony Rose, 45, illegally sublet his housing association property for more than six years.

Rose obtained the one-bedroom property from the Hyde Group in December 1996.

Hyde became suspicious of subletting when staff visited the property in April 2017 and found a woman living alone at the address.

Hyde’s tenancy team asked Greenwich Council's anti-fraud team to investigate and they visited the property and met with the current occupant.

She confirmed she had been living there since October 2015 and was paying a monthly rent of £800 to her landlord, Rose.

Council investigators also found that prior to his current tenant Rose had also sublet the property to various other people from July 2011 and that his bank accounts showed a rental income from July 2011 to December 2017 totalling more than £57,000.

In January 2018 council investigators invited Rose for interview, but he refused on advice from his lawyer.

He then claimed the woman living at the property was his girlfriend and he was living there with her, but this was denied by his tenant.

In March, after being shown the evidence against him, Rose offered to return the keys to the property.

He asked that no proceedings be taken as he did not want a criminal record, but he was taken to court.

Rose appeared at Woolwich Crown Court and pleaded guilty to offences relating to the Fraud Act 2006 and the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

Councillor Christine Grice, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “Mr Rose deprived genuine people of much-needed accommodation for many years and made a substantial profit from his despicable actions.

"The council has submitted an application under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 to recover the money Mr Rose made from the illegal subletting.

"Just because you give the keys back doesn’t mean you won’t be prosecuted and lose the profits of any illegal activities.”

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18 Sep 2018

Tory council candidate had social housing fraud conviction

A Conservative party candidate for this year’s local election has a criminal conviction for tenancy and benefit fraud.

A BBC investigation showed how Richard Kays, also known as Richard Kagumya, illegally sublet a council property in Ilford, making £400 per month in unlawful profits back in 2016.

But his previous conviction only came to light in a BBC documentary broadcast on Monday, September 10.

Despite his criminal conviction, Mr Kays was still selected by the Conservative Party to stand as a local election candidate in Wanstead Park ward in May this year. He was unsuccessful.

He also ran an event for the party in the Houses of Parliament.

In 2016, the 29-year-old had also wrongfully claimed housing benefit of £400 per month whilst charging his sub-tenant £800 per month to live in the council property.

According to the BBC, his total profits from the illegal subletting and fraudulent housing benefit claims over a five month period came to more than £5,000.

Mr Kays was alleged to have shown no remorse for his crimes and was labelled “arrogant” by those prosecuting him.

At the time, he was sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid community work and had to repay costs of almost £2,000 to Redbridge Council and more than £5,000 to the housing association involved.

Earlier this summer, Mr Kays also organised and ran a children’s Question Time-style panel event in the Houses of Parliament for the Conservative party.

At the time, the event was criticised for the panel’s lack of diversity. Every panel member was affiliated with the Conservative party, all were white and only one of panellists was a woman.

Iain Duncan Smith, MP for Chingford and Woodford Green, was chairman of the children’s Question Time panel and had been invited to chair proceedings by Richard Kays.

Mr Duncan Smith said: “I understand Richard Kays was a member of the Leyton and Wanstead Constituency Association but that he is no longer a member. As I understand it Leyton and Wanstead did not know he had a conviction, it is of course quite wrong for someone to join the Conservative Association and stand for council, without informing the Party of any criminal offence. Each Conservative Association is responsible for their own membership reporting to Conservative Central Office. ”

In Redbridge, social housing makes up just 12 per cent of the council’s housing stock and there are currently 2,200 homeless families in the borough living in temporary housing in the borough, waiting for a permanent council home.

Cllr Linda Huggett, leader of the Redbridge Conservative group, said she played no part in Mr Kays’ selection earlier this year.

She said: “The matter has been referred to the Press Office at Conservative Campaign Head Quarters. At present I have no further comment to make.”

Cllr Paul Canal, former leader of the Conservative group, has been contacted for comment.

Harriet Bailey, a spokesman for the national Conservative party, said: “Richard Kays has resigned from the party.”

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A chancer

17 Sep 2018

Alcoholic managed £43k benefit fraud

An alcoholic who swindled £43,000 in benefits splashed out on a holiday to Thailand and Singapore, a court heard.

Lying Lorraine Deadman, aged 62, then told investigators that she thought she had “got away with it”.

Deadman failed to disclose her husband had moved back in while pocketing two types of benefit for more than three years.

She also did not mention an £18,000 inheritance a few months before the long-haul break, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

A judge said that it was “quite a bad case of its type.”

Handing her a suspended jail term, Recorder Jonathan Barnes added: “I would have been justified in sending you to prison but you have significant health problems, you are of good character and for some reason Colin Deadman has not been prosecuted in these matters.”

Prosecutors say her husband sold his house without telling the authorities and hid the fact he was living with her.

Lorraine Deadman, from Stonehouse, pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to inform the DWP and Plymouth City Council of a change of circumstances affecting her claims.

She admitted failing to promptly notify them she was living with Colin Deadman between November 2013 and March last year.

She claimed housing benefit and employment support allowance in the sum of £43,253.

Mike Brown, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said she started claiming housing benefit in 2011 and employment support allowance in September 2013. He said she declared she was jobless and living on her own.

Mr Brown added that Mr Deadman moved in during November 2013, bringing with him his pension.

The barrister said he had not declared the sale of his own home and tried to conceal that he was living with his wife. He added that investigators found he paid some of the bills at the defendant’s home.

Mr Brown said Deadman also lied on annual forms where she was meant to update her details. He added she failed to declare an inheritance of £18,000 at the end of 2013.

The barrister said Deadman had a holiday in Singapore and Thailand early the next year.

The Crown is starting legal action under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize any assets.

Will Willden, barrister for Deadman, said: “She has for the best part of her life been addicted to alcohol at a very severe level.”

He added she had struggled to cope with the death of her young son and suffered poor health. She had managed to stay out of trouble until this offence.

Mr Willden said that she and Mr Deadman had already paid back more than £5,000. He told the court she had no assets and the legacy had gone, but was continuing to make contributions of £100 a month.

He said: “There is a positive outlook and she has been abstinent for some time.”

Deadman was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 20 days of intensive probation supervision.

She must stick to a three-month curfew for seven days a week between 6am and 6pm.

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14 Sep 2018

Benefits assessor in large scale benefits fraud

Sancho Jayaratnam, aged 58 from Bushey, was caught red-handed in a joint effort by police and Harrow Council committing multiple acts of fraud.

He was convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud by abuse of position at Harrow Crown Court, on August 9.

Jayaratnam, a former benefit assessor for the council, worked with accomplices to create bogus payments from customer claims siphoning them directly into his collaborators' bank accounts.

One such accomplice, Gabriella Morosan, aged 28, from Watford, recruited an entire network to launder the stolen money.

Morosan pleaded guilty to the same charge receiving an 18-month suspended sentence and 100 hours community service.

Jayaratnam’s claims he was coerced by a criminal gang were given short shrift by the judge, who dismissed his story as fantasy and said he must return the cash he stole or face further jail time.

Harrow Council’s anti-fraud investigators and the police’s fraud team dedicated hundreds of hours mounting a case against Jayaratnam.

In 2016, the teams uncovered evidence in Jayaratnam’s house and car including documents belonging to claimants and a cash point receipt showing a withdrawal by Gabriella Morosan.

Nine separate accounts were used to siphon 114 payments between August 2015 and November 2016, totalling £113,628.

Jayaratnam faces a proceeds of crime investigation to determine a final repayment sum. He must repay the full amount stolen plus £22,000 in costs to the council within six months or face further jail time. He may also be forced to forfeit property.

Harrow Council’s Cabinet member for finance and resources, councillor Adam Swersky, said: “I’m delighted with the work of our investigators. There's nowhere for fraudsters to hide in Harrow. Sancho Jayaratnam learnt that the hard way.

“This kind of fraud is one of the lowest forms of crime – it's stealing from taxpayers and from the vulnerable at the same time. Maybe he thought it wasn’t that serious, maybe he thought he’d get away with it – he was wrong.”

Source

11 Sep 2018

Benefits cheat claimed £9k while working as Uber driver

A taxi driver has admitted claiming nearly £9,500 in benefits while working for Uber.

Mohammed Chowdhury, 51, was found driving for the company in Cardiff last year but had been claiming benefits without declaring that he had taken on the job.

On Wednesday Cardiff Magistrates' Court heard Chowdhury received a total of £9,460.14 in Jobseeker's Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance between June 2016 and May 2017.

During the one-year period he declared a part-time job as a self-employed taxi driver but failed to notify authorities after starting at Uber.

After being invited to the DWP, Chowdhury confirmed his job as an Uber driver and told interviewers he had "financial difficulties" following legal disputes with Uber, Cardiff council and Rhondda Cynon Taf council, the court heard.

He told interviewers he was "unsure whether he would have to pay his income back and therefore did not declare it".

The court heard Chowdhury had originally started claiming Jobseeker's Allowance in December 2014 for both him and his wife.

In November 2016 the taxi driver declared himself "too sick to work" but was found able to seek employment following a medical examination six months later.

It was accepted that his claims were not "initially fraudulent".

Speaking through an interpreter, Chowdhury admitted a single count of fraud by dishonestly failing to disclose his change of status.

Speaking through an interpreter? He was an Uber driver. Why did we pay for this?

He will be sentenced on September 12 after a probation report is carried out.

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10 Sep 2018

Bromsgrove team claims £140k housing fraud savings

THE anti-fraud team at Bromsgrove District Housing Trust (BDHT) has saved the organisation and its customers £140,000 by successfully targeting those seeking to secure social homes they are not legally entitled to.

With housing fraud on the rise, the trust set up a dedicated team 18 months ago to investigate suspected fraud under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2012.

Working with the National Anti-Fraud Network and residents the team was able to identify fraudulent activity and, where necessary, reclaimed properties for eligible tenants.

BDHT’s communities first manager Annette Trow said: “We take housing fraud very seriously as it strips away money desperately needed to provide homes for those in urgent need of social housing.

“We have seen a particular increase in right-to-buy fraud, where we have received a request to buy a property but we discovered that the named tenant was no longer living at the address and someone else, usually a relative, was trying to purchase the property at a reduced rate.”

Fraud is a criminal offence and has severe consequences, potentially carrying a prison sentence of up to ten years.

BDHT’s chief executive Mark Robertson added: “It is sad that it was necessary for us to develop an anti-fraud team to combat the issues we and other housing associations are facing from a relatively small number of residents.”

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On the face of it, for a team of five to save £140,000 (over eighteen months?) doesn't look like a strong return, but we are not told how the figure was calculated.

7 Sep 2018

Lying benefit fraud mother jailed

A former businesswoman who claimed more than £80,000 in benefits after falsely saying she was a single mother has finally been jailed when she jetted off to Tenerife after being ordered to do community service. (h/t Dave)

Mother-of-two, Nicola Alcock, 41, was arrested after she landed back in the UK, several weeks ago.

Alcock claimed she had gone to the Spanish island to raise some money after a proceeds of crime hearing, Preston Crown Court was told.

The former criminology student was given the four month sentence by Judge Andrew Woolman on Monday after breaching the suspended jail term she had been given at Burnley Crown Court in January last year.

Alcock admitted benefit fraud charges between December 15, 2008 and and April 21, 2015, and was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for two years, with 150 hours unpaid work.

Alcock was already serving 91 days in custody in default, after an earlier proceeds of crime hearing. She will serve the sentences concurrently.

And she had claimed to a court she was jobless and broke when she got a speeding fine cut from £220 to £40 in February last year, just weeks after being handed the suspended sentence.

In January last year, Burnley Crown Court was told how Alcock claimed child tax credits and housing benefit over a five year period after telling the authorities she was living alone with her two children.

But her lies were unmasked after Alcock advertised her services on the Barking Mad dog sitting service - and wrote about her happy marriage and family life.

An investigation revealed she married trucker Gerard Thornton in 2008 but failed to mention the wedding to the authorities

DWP officials were alerted to the organisation's website on which Alcock posed in a Barking Mad polo shirt and spoke about her happy family life at home in Earby, Lancashire with husband Gerard Thornton.

In her promotional blurb she wrote: 'I am proud to be the Barking Mad representative in Keighley and surrounding areas. I live in Earby with my husband Gez and 2 children. So as you can see not only am I animal mad but being Barking Mad helps too!'

An investigation revealed she married trucker Mr Thornton in 2008 but failed to mention the wedding to the authorities.

Despite being confronted with the evidence she continued to deny being married and only confessed when she was shown her marriage certificate.

Calculations revealed she was overpaid tax credits totalling £58,721.91 and housing benefit in the sum of £22,856.29. The total overpayment was £81,578.20.

Julian Goode, prosecuting, said Alcock initially made a legitimate claim for tax credits on January 17, 2006, on the basis she was single, with dependent children. She also made an application for housing benefit, on October 3, 2008.

But Mr Goode added: 'Matters altered on 13 December, 2008 when she married Gerard Thornton and thereafter maintained a common household with him. The change in circumstances would have affected her entitlement to benefits and she failed to notify the authorities.'

DWP investigators uncovered various documents confirming Alcock and Mr Thornton were living together including a Nationwide Building Society personal loan, bank and insurance documents.

Mr Goode said: 'She initially said the relationship started in 2009. Of course, we know the marriage was in 2008. She said Mr Thornton only stayed over if her daughter was at her father's house. She was later shown her marriage certificate and accepted she had been dishonest.'

In mitigation defence lawyer Richard Dawson said Alcock was currently out of work, adding: 'That's primarily because she didn't want to take up employment only to lose her liberty and leave. She is keen to rejoin the workforce and gain stability in her life.'

The court heard Alcock was being treated for depression but had led an 'honest life'.

Sentencing at the time, Judge Mr Recorder Simon Hilton had told her: 'There is no doubt that this behaviour is of a gravity which crosses the custody threshold. A suspended sentence order is justified notwithstanding the gravity of the offences. Everything I have read about you suggests this behaviour is out of character for you and, more importantly, is wholly unlikely to be repeated in the future.'

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£647m seized in housing benefit fraud crackdown

A massive crackdown on fraud and blunders in the Housing Benefit system has netted record savings for taxpayers, new figures revealed tonight as it emerged one claimant stole the identity of a dead man to receive payments.

A total of £175m was recovered by the DWP in the first three months of this year.

It was the biggest haul collected by the Whitehall department in a three month period.

Overall, more than £647million was recovered after investigations into fraudulent and incorrect Housing Benefit claims during the 2017/18 financial year.

Officials said that failure to declare correct earnings and employment details was the biggest cause of loss in the Housing Benefit system.

Tory Work and Pensions Esther McVey said: “We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits, as they divert funds away from people in need. We are working closely with local authorities to address Housing Benefit fraud and error, and developing new measures that can be used to help prevent it.”

Last year, her department was given an £82million fund from the Treasury for tackling Housing Benefit fraud and error.

The fund helped was used to set up a Housing Benefit taskforce, provide new computer systems for identifying fraud and improve co-operation between local authorities to root out benefit cheats.

Officials released details of recent cases uncovered in the crackdown. They included:

Brian Matthews, 51, from Cornwall, who made false claims for Housing Benefit and a range of disability support handouts under numerous identities. For one set of claims, he stole the identity of a dead man. He manipulated medical evidence to claim that he had “irreversible spinal damage”.

Following a DWP investigation, he admitted that his condition was no more serious than lower back pain. The case resulted in a loss to the taxpayer of more than £245,000. Matthews was given a 42 and a half month sentence by Truro Crown Court, and ordered to repay the defrauded amount.

Adele Ledward, 36, of Stockport falsely claimed more than £58,000 in Housing Benefit by posing as a struggling, single parent living alone. An investigation found she had been living with a partner who was a successful businessman. While claiming benefits Ledward went on several holidays with her partner. She pleaded guilty to fraud and was ordered to repay the cash and was given a 12-month suspended jail sentence.

Sahin Lim, 60, of Glasgow fraudulent claimed a series of means-tested hand-out including more £34,000 in Housing Benefit. An investigation revealed Lim had travelled extensively while claiming the cash, taking more than 1,000 flights to visit over 117 countries. He had more than £500,000 deposited in various undisclosed bank accounts. Lim was found guilty of benefit fraud and sentenced to 22 months in prison and ordered to repay the overpaid funds.

John O’Connell, chief executive at the TaxPayers’ Alliance pressure group, said: "Taxpayers will be very encouraged to see that the DWP is cracking down on benefit fraud.

"Not only is the money needed elsewhere, but the injustice of people cheating a system designed to help the most vulnerable is very keenly felt.

"Alongside these technical steps, we hope that people will act responsibly and not take money that doesn’t belong to them and is needed to help those who deserve support."

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