22 May 2015

Civil servant in £110k 12 year benefit fraud

A civil servant who claimed more than £110,000 in fraudulent benefits has been jailed.

Neil Smith, 38, from Penge, kept his job secret from Bromley Council and the Department for Work and Pensions and continued to claim benefits for 12 years.

But officials eventually spotted what was going on when they compared the Home Office payroll with benefit records.

Smith, of Penge Lane, was found to have fraudulently claimed £46,563 in housing benefit and £9,356 in council tax benefit from March 2002 to February 2014. He also fraudulently claimed £11,755 of Income Support.

He initially denied three charges of benefit fraud, but changed his plea to guilty ahead of his trial at Croydon Crown Court and was jailed for eight months.

Smith will also have to pay back all the money, as well as £42,599 he claimed for severe disablement allowance, although a charge relating to this claim was withdrawn.


21 May 2015

Hyde Group secures its first Unlawful Profit Order

Hyde Group is warning any tempted residents not to illegally sublet their homes after the housing association secured its first Unlawful Profit Order.

The unnamed tenant was ordered to pay a total of £17,662, including Hyde's £5k legal costs, and told to vacate the property within 14 days at a county court hearing in Croydon. The tenant had sub-let the whole property and consequently lost assured tenancy status.

The UPO was introduced through the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

Hyde housing director Carol Carter said:
A very small minority of tenants choose to flout the laws when it comes to sub-letting. While they may see this as a victimless crime they are taking up valuable accommodation that could and should be given to those who need it most. It’s for the integrity of The Hyde Group and not least in fairness to our thousands of law abiding tenants, and those waiting for a suitable property to become available, that this case was brought to court.
The Hyde Group worked in collaboration with the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s internal audit & tenancy fraud enforcement team.


20 May 2015

Jail for £48k benefit cheat

A woman who fraudulently claimed more than £48,000 in benefits she wan not entitled to has been jailed for 16 months. (h/t Dave)

Nadine Pirincci, from North Weald, admitted 12 offences - seven relating to making false statements, four of failing to notify of a change in circumstances and one of producing or furnishing a false document to dishonestly claim benefits - when she appeared in court earlier this month.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told Pirincci received a total of £48,176 from Epping Forest Council and the Department of Work and Pensions in housing benefit, council tax benefit, income support and jobseekers allowance.

But after carrying out some investigations, the council discovered that a property in Forest Gate which Pirincci said she was selling was taken off the market before she started claiming benefit and she let it out during the period of her claim.

As she said the property was for sale and provided documentation appearing to confirm that was the case,it was temporarily disregarded for benefit purposes as allowed for in the regulations. Later, when her claim was reviewed, she stated she no longer owned any property.

She owned more than £86,000 of equity in the property and investigators also discovered that during the period of her claim she received a divorce settlement of £67,000 which she concealed in her children's bank accounts.

She was also paid for work which she did not declare and received a number of cash payments which she could not explain. The court was also told that in total she held more than £80,000 in undeclared bank accounts.

Pirincci originally pleaded not guilty to the offences at Colchester Magistrates Court in August 2014 and the case was sent to the crown court for trial. However, she changed her plea to guilty on the first day.

Pirincci paid back the benefits she was not entitled to when her deceit was discovered and prosecution proceedings were commenced.

Speaking after the case, Councillor Syd Stavrou, finance portfolio holder at Epping Forest Council, said: "This is a blatant case of someone meaning to cheat the system. The defendant deliberately set out to deceive the council and the DWP from the beginning and continued to dishonestly claim benefits which she knew she was not entitled to, at the expense of the tax payer. I am pleased the judge took a strong stance and awarded a tough sentence. I hope it will act as a deterrent to others and makes it clear that benefit fraud cannot be tolerated."

Pirincci will serve half of the sentence in prison and the remainder on licence.


19 May 2015

Light sentence for immigrant benefit cheat

A mother of five who wrongly claimed more than £100,000 in benefit payments has been spared jail.

Despite only admitting her guilt halfway through her trial, the judge told Nazma Hoque (38) her guilty plea had been taken into consideration when handing out a suspended 12-month prison sentence. He didn’t order costs against her.

Hoque, of Sherwood Street, Oldham, had applied for Income Support, housing and council tax benefits in 2002 when she said her husband had deserted her.

Manchester Crown Court was told she had frequently been warned she was obliged to report changes in circumstances, but didn’t.

She had two more children by Shufiqul Hoque in 2003 and 2005, and they lived as man and wife in Sherwood Street, Oldham from at least 2007. One family member said she wasn’t even aware there had been a split.

An investigation was launched when Hoque contacted the the Department for Work and Pensions in 2012, reporting a reconciliation - four days after her sister-in-law had been arrested on suspicion of benefit fraud.

Judge Leslie Hull said: “That was an acknowledgement by you that you had dishonestly claimed benefits by not telling the relevant authorities your husband had returned to you.”

The inquiry revealed a paper trail of official letters and documents linking delivery driver and waiter Mr Hoque to the Sherwood Street house.

Nazma Hoque pleaded not guilty benefit fraud and failing to inform changes in her circumstances at her trial in March. The proceedings halted when, on the day her defence was due to begin, she admitted the two counts of failing to notify changes.

Hoque received £103,000 over a decade. Had she been honest she would have been eligible for around £59,000 - making her liable for almost £44,000.

Judge Hull told her if she hadn’t changed her pleas, and had been convicted, she would have been jailed.

Hoque, who came to Britain for an arranged marriage in 1994 and struggles to understand English, said she had dishonoured herself and her family.

Well, she managed to live with that for ten years.

Her children aged between nine and 19 are said to have been badly affected by her trial and publicity surrounding it.

She will be subject to a nightly curfew for four months and has been ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work. An application for £10,000 costs against her was adjourned indefinitely.

Source - and outraged comments

18 May 2015

Care worker guilty of £18k benefit fraud

Keirderin Knight, 45, from Great Cornard, was overpaid more than £18,000 in housing and council tax benefit as a result of her failing to tell the authorities that she was working, Ipswich Crown Court heard.

Lynne Shirley, prosecuting, said Knight had also failed to mention she had capital in excess of the amount allowed and had a financial interest in a house.

Knight admitted three offences of dishonestly failing to notify a change in her circumstances and was given a 22-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

She was also placed under the supervision of the probation service for 12 months and ordered to attend a Women’s Emotional Wellbeing programme.

Sentencing her, Judge John Devaux said: “You kept information hidden from those who needed to know it so they could decide if you were entitled to benefits and what amount.”

Miss Shirley told the court that Knight had paid back £1,000 of the overpayment and was paying the rest back at £200 a month.

She said Knight’s claim for benefits was not fraudulent from the outset.

She said investigators had discovered from bank statements that “significant” credits of £21,000 and £11,000 had been paid into Knight’s account and that she had a £168,000 joint mortgage with her partner for a property jointly owned with him.

Archie McKay, for Knight, said his client had suffered from depression and had only been earning £12,000pa and was currently repaying £200 a month of the overpayment out of her £1,000-a-month salary.


14 May 2015

Immigrant stole over £30k in benefits

A car valeter dishonestly pocketed more than £30,000 in benefits in a fraud spanning almost five years, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Ako Salih claimed the money while working self-employed for two periods, between July 2007 and May 2013.

Salih came to the UK from Iraq in 2002 and was granted indefinite leave to stay.

He pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to eight offences of benefit fraud, totalling £30,874, prosecutor Emma Downing told the court.

She said the claims related to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Job Seeker's Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.


Poll: 66% believe housing benefit fraud is a big problem

As a new Conservative government takes charge, tenancy fraud is highlighted as a big problem across the UK with the illegal claiming of housing benefit seen as the biggest problem of all, according to latest findings from Callcredit Information Group.

It has been estimated that tenancy fraud currently costs councils across the UK £1.8 billion each year. The independent research undertaken by YouGov looked into the types of housing fraud that were seen as the biggest problem by the public, and if the money could be recovered what councils should spend it on. Interestingly respondents across all age groups and regions prioritised affordable housing (50 per cent) as the area to spend recovered money, indicating a united view that more needs to be done to help solve the housing crisis.

The research also revealed a widespread recognition there is a tenancy fraud issue with national unity across the findings and attitudes hardening amongst the older generation.

When asked how big a problem, if at all, do you think tenancy fraud is? The respondents indicated the following was a big problem:

Illegal claiming of housing benefit – 66 per cent
Illegal sub-letting of social housing – 55 per cent
Non-occupancy of social housing by tenants, leaving property empty – 46 per cent
False claiming of the single person discount in social housing – 53 per cent

When asked if tenancy fraud costs could be recovered, what do you think councils should spend it on? The top three findings were:

Affordable housing – 50 per cent
Local healthcare services – 40 per cent
Roads and pavements - 28 per cent

Andrew Davis, Director of public sector, Callcredit Information Group said:
There has been considerable government effort over the past five years to tackle the high levels of fraud and error in the public sector. It is essential that the new Conservative government maintains efforts to reduce fraud and minimise error to help eradicate the deficit. Housing benefit fraud and error cost the taxpayer around £1.2 billion per year and single person discount fraud is currently responsible for an estimated £90 million fraud loss per year. These figures combined with our results highlight that local authorities need to do to more to reduce tenancy fraud and show the public they are taking action to improve fraud and error detection. The savings could make a significant contribution to the public purse and could be used to build more affordable homes, which are urgently needed.

13 May 2015

Enfield prosecutes illegal sub-letter

A local authority has used new laws to prosecute a woman who sublet her home unlawfully.

Former London and Quadrant tenant Yasmine Maya, from Waltham Abbey, pleaded guilty to illegally subletting her L&Q flat in Edmonton as well as admitting other charges in relation to benefit fraud.

She was ordered to undertake 250 hours of unpaid work as well as receiving a sentence of 16 months' imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Unlawful subletting of a social housing property became a criminal offence under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and Enfield Borough Council has become the first in the UK to prosecute someone.

Investigators from London and Quadrant became suspicious that Ms Maya was not living at her flat in Edmonton, they contacted their counterparts at Enfield Council and a joint investigation was undertaken.

Not only was she found to be subletting the flat illegally but a benefit fraud to the value of £42,000 was also discovered following Ms Maya’s failure to declare income from employment as well as savings held in undeclared bank accounts.

Councillor Andrew Stafford, cabinet member for finance, said: “Enfield Council has broken new ground by being the first local authority to use this new legislation to crack down on a benefit fraudster. Those that profit from sub letting social housing are criminals so I am delighted we have been successful bringing this criminal to book.”

Councillor Ahmet Oykener, cabinet member for housing and estate regeneration, said: “Sub letting a council property denies housing to those most in need in the borough, and also lines the pockets of fraudsters who often let to unsuspecting people, who can then find themselves homeless when the fraud is discovered. Enfield Council regularly makes checks to ensure subletting doesn’t happen in our borough, and if anyone should suspect this is taking place they should report it straight away.”


7 May 2015

Dozy Dacorum lumbers into 2013

A 'no questions asked' key amnesty is being launched by Dacorum Borough Council to stop illegal subletting of council properties.

During June, the council will be giving tenants who are either illegally subletting or not living in their council homes the chance to hand their keys back with no questions asked.

Tenants will be sent a letter during May explaining that since the introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, it is a criminal offence if they have a tenancy with the council but live elsewhere and sublet the property to another person, which is also a breach of their tenancy.

Yes, 2013, dozy Dacorum.

Anyone who hands in their keys to end their tenancy between June 1 and 30 will not have legal action taken against them for either subletting or not occupying their homes. This will allow the council to re-let the properties to legitimate applicants on the Housing Register.

Andy Vincent, group manager for tenants and leaseholders, said: "We have 5,388 people on our housing register who are in need of a home, and illegal subletting deprives them of this. The key amnesty will give us a chance to help those families in need of housing."

Immediately after the key amnesty end on Tuesday, June 30, the council will be conducting a major crackdown on tenants who sublet or abandon their properties.

Any tenants found illegally subletting their council homes could face up to two years in prison, a fine of up to £50,000 and will also have to pay any profits they've made.

When dozy Dacorum Council get round to it.


6 May 2015

Jail for £12k benefit thief

A Bedford benefit cheat has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to fraudulently accepting money he was not entitled to.

Darren Sweeney, 49, received £12,183 in Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support after claiming benefits as a single man who had been signed off work sick.

However, Bedford Borough Council Investigators discovered Sweeney instead had a partner living with him, who was employed and providing financially for the upkeep of their home.

When questioned by Council Investigators, Sweeney admitted his partner had initially moved in with him following an operation he had on his knee.

Yet, by failing to declare this change in his circumstances to the Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, Sweeney continued receiving benefits that he was not entitled to.

Luton Magistrates considered a recommendation from the Probation Service that Sweeney be given a Community Punishment Order but decided the matter was so serious that immediate custody was warranted. Following the verdict, he was escorted from the courthouse and taken directly to prison.

A Council spokesperson said: “This sentence is welcomed by Bedford Borough Council and demonstrates the consequences awaiting those who are, or are thinking about, fraudulently obtaining benefits, discounts or services from the Council. We hope this case will serve as a deterrent to anyone thinking of committing fraud and will make them reconsider; with these strict punishments in place the question is whether it’s really worth the risk.”