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26 Jul 2017

Two years' jail for £250k benefit fraud

A benefit fraudster who lied to the authorities for 11 years to cash in on nearly £250,000 by pretending she did not live with her partner has been jailed for two years.

Lisa Cox lied to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officers in numerous assessments and gave false addresses for her other half, Matthew Gadbury, who owned a second home in Kent. The Kent chalet meant that Cox was no longer entitled to benefits including her £37.51-per-week employment support allowance, but she did not declare she was living with Mr Gadbury and continued to receive the money for over a decade.

Jim Olphert, prosecuting, said: 'The fraudulent claims began on December 5, 2003, the first date that Mr Gadbury was in residence with Miss Cox. During her time claiming benefits she had to re-apply and be re-assessed for them. Each time she signed a declaration on change of circumstances whereby she would notify the DWP immediately of any change.'

He said Cox, from Buckland, Surrey, who stood in the dock on crutches and had previously been wheelchair-bound, had lied at assessment meetings with the DWP. 'Miss Cox gave an account whereby Mr Gadbury had not been permanently residing with her,' he said. Throughout Miss Cox gave a number of other addresses that Mr Gadbury lived at.' He said the addresses were all investigated by the DWP which found that these claims had been lies.

Cox, 42, admitted six counts of dishonesty by failure to report a change of circumstances at Guildford Crown Court.

But defence barrister Rupert Hallowes claimed Mr Gadbury, who sat in the public gallery with their two grown-up children, should have been in the dock beside her.

He said: 'The DWP decided that there was no underlying entitlement to [employment support allowance] because Mr Gadbury owned a chalet in Kent.'

The chalet was deemed to be worth £16,000, which ends entitlement to the benefit Cox was receiving. But Mr Hallowes argued that the chalet had fallen into disrepair and was worth less.

He said: 'It's that property that disentitled her to that money. The man who must take responsibility beside her sits in court with their two children, well aware that she may get a sentence in prison. This was a legitimate claim in the outset. There is no doubt in 2013 she was very unwell indeed and that may be why she didn't make the declaration she should have done.'

In response, Judge Robert Fraser said: 'Looking back over, the period she failed to notify of change is really 11 years.'

Sentencing Cox to two years behind bars, he added: 'As you know, the amount of money involved here is very significant indeed. On a weekly or monthly basis it may not seem very much but as I was saying before it was over nearly 11 years. You made a very determined attempt to avoid liability. I have thought long and hard about this. I would try if I could to suspend he sentence in your case but I would be failing the public.'

He also handed her a compensation order of £5,000 which was found when Cox was arrested.

A DWP spokesperson said: 'Only a small number of people try to commit benefit fraud, but cases like this show how our fraud investigators are working hard to catch those that do. This case should serve as a warning that people convicted of benefit fraud can face prison and will have a criminal record.'

Source with pictures

25 Jul 2017

Newcastle Council brings first sub-letting prosecution!

A rogue tenant who made £29,000 renting out her council flat to students while living in China has been ordered to pay back the cash.

Lin Zhao qualified for a council house in 2005 and paid £66 per week to rent a three-bed flat in Clarence House from Newcastle City Council.

However, it has since emerged the professor was living in China and illegally sub-letting the property to students, pocketing £28,945 in rent over four-and-a-half years of a six year absence from the address.

She had converted the living room into a fourth bedroom, and between June 2008 and December 2014 30 individuals - mainly students - had lived at the property and paid rent.

When council officers caught up with Zhao and her scheme unravelled she tried to lie and claim the tenants were friends’ children and didn’t pay rent.

However, Newcastle Crown Court heard students living at the property told officers the truth and analysis of Ms Zhao’s bank records showed she had been pocketing the difference in rent.

Zhao admitted one count of illegal sub-letting and a further count of failing to disclose information under the fraud act.

Alex Burns, defending, said Ms Zhao had not expected to be away so long but had been caring for her ill father before her mother then took ill. He said Zhao had not been living the high life as a consequence of the sub-let and she was concerned at the impact on her ability to work as a professor following conviction.

Judge Deborah Sherwin at Newcastle Crown Court sentenced Zhao to 15 months imprisonment suspended for two years after she admitted two counts of fraud. The council had frozen funds held by Zhao in an ISA account after earlier court proceedings and Zhao has formally agreed to pay to the council the £28,945 that she had profited by the enterprise.

The prosecution is a first for the authority who have said they will not allow people to make a profit from council houses.

Councillor Jane Streather, cabinet member for housing, said: “Illegally sub-letting a council property is a very serious offence which carries a very heavy penalty if convicted as highlighted by this case. This is the first time we have prosecuted for a sub-letting offence and we will be doing more of these prosecutions so the message is clear; if someone is sub-letting they should stop now before they get caught and its costs them dearly. The council provides housing to meet people’s housing needs and not for them to make a profit.”

Wake up, Newcastle City Council!

Source

24 Jul 2017

Smoking mother goes unpunished for benefit fraud

A mum-of-three ended up facing jail - because she didn’t tell the council the father of her child had moved in with her.

After Emma Newton fell pregnant her partner began to increasingly stay the night. But she didn’t tell Redcar and Cleveland Council, meaning she racked up almost £5,000 in illegally claimed benefits.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud at Teesside Magistrates’ Court.

“She was worried about how she may might support her three children with a reduction in benefits,” said the probation service.

The court heard Newton initially made legitimate claims for housing benefit and income support.

And the probation service added: “Things changed when she met her partner. She was in a relationship with him but it was not serious. When she fell pregnant...it was at this point the relationship started to become a bit more serious.”

The court heard her partner was spending up to five nights a week, despite officially still living with his gran. But with Newton claiming as a sole occupant, it made her claim illegal.

When interviewed after her arrest, prosecutor Lynne Dalton said there was “financial motivation” behind the 31-year-old’s crimes. The court heard they were serious enough to warrant a six month custodial sentence, and her solicitor added: “She’s been very scared understandably about what might happen.”

The illegal claims were made between July 2015 and February 2016.

However, in mitigation, it was said she’s paying back around £100-a-month.

And magistrates spared the Middlesborough mother from jail or doing community work after the court heard claims it could cause childcare issues.

She was fined £120 and ordered to pay £85 in costs along with a £30 surcharge.

Source, with pictures showing she can afford fags

Benefit cheat mum claimed £10k after new partner moved in

Benefit cheat mum-of-two Kerry Richards claimed more than £10,000 she was not entitled to after setting up home with her new partner.

The 29-year-old 'knew it was wrong' to continue receiving the Government handouts but was worried about how she was going to manage without the cash.

North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard she legitimately received income support and housing benefit when her ex-partner moved out of their home in June 2014 on the grounds she was a lone parent and was unemployed. But Richards failed to inform the authorities when her new boyfriend moved in with her in November of that year.

In total, she was overpaid £10,213.92 income support and housing benefit between November 2014 and July 2016. Now Richards has been handed a 12-month community order with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 10 days.

Prosecutor Steve Knowles said: "The defendant was in receipt of income support and housing benefit on the grounds she was unemployed and lived alone with her two children at an address in Norton. She failed to declare her new partner had moved in with her in November 2014 which resulted in an overpayment of income support and housing benefit of £10,213.92."

Richards, from Chell Heath, pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting her entitlements to benefits.

The court heard she knew her actions were wrong but new partner did not contribute financially to the household and she felt she could not manage.

A probation officer, who interviewed Richards, told the court: "She knew she was doing wrong. The longer it went on the harder it became for her to rectify the problem. She is now relieved it is out in the open. She expresses remorse for her behaviour. It is totally out of character for her."

Richards, who has no previous convictions, has made arrangements to repay the money - £80 a month for the income support and £30 a month for the housing benefit. Magistrates also fined her £80 and ordered her to pay £185 costs and a £60 surcharge.

Source

21 Jul 2017

Disability benefit fraudster to be sentenced

A benefits cheat who said he could not walk more than 50 metres climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and won a triathlon.

Mark Lloyd, of Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taff, claimed £6,551.80 in Personal Independence Payments, saying a slipped disc in his back left him in agony. At the same time, the 33-year-old competed in races, climbed Africa's highest peak, went wing-walking and skied in the Alps.

He was convicted of a fraud charge at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates' Court.

Chris Evans, prosecuting, said: "He said he can only walk between 20 and 50 metres, can't walk on uneven ground, suffers pain when walking long distances and needs to sit down every 20 minutes."

He claimed the cash between October 2014 and February 2016, but the court was shown photos of Lloyd competing in the HSBC triathlon in September 2015 - a race he won in the adult taster category. That month, he was also pictured posing with an African guide during his five-day trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which involved walking between eight and 12 hours a day. He also took part in the World Powerboat Championships in Malta.

Lloyd told benefits assessors he could not bend or stretch and needed walking aids. He was medically discharged from the Army in 2011 after suffering an injury to his lower back while serving in Afghanistan.

In 2014, he applied for the Personal Independence Payment - up to £141 a week for those suffering long-term ill health to help cover costs of their care. The following year, he applied for more money, saying his condition had worsened and he would be bedridden for a day if he walked more than 164 ft (50m).

Mr Evans said: "The case is not whether he has an injury or not, but if he exaggerated his condition to claim money."

Lloyd admitted filling in risk assessment forms to enter three triathlons without revealing he suffered ill health. He said: "I didn't want any special treatment or assistance. I wanted to be self-sufficient and compete at the same level as everyone else." Despite saying he struggled to walk, Lloyd reached the peak of Kilimanjaro.

James Harris, defending, said Lloyd had not been dishonest and was able to push through the pain barrier because of his Army training. "When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro he said he pushed himself and was in agony," he told the court.

District Judge Martin Brown called Lloyd's defence "nonsense" and said he deliberately lied to get "every penny he could".

The court heard the offence took place while he was serving a 20-week suspended prison sentence for common assault.

Lloyd denied one count of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for himself, but was convicted following a trial. He will be sentenced in August.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Only a small minority of people try to cheat the benefits system, but cases like this show how we are rooting out those who are stealing taxpayers' money and diverting it away from the people who really need it."

The fraud seems to have been pretty easy.

Source with pictures

20 Jul 2017

Benefit claims continued after inheritance

A benefits cheat who claimed more than £40,000 she wasn’t entitled to has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Eileen Mary Chadwick, 61, had put a joint application for herself and her husband to receive hundreds of pounds per month in benefits.

Those claims included income support, Employment and Support Allowance and housing benefit.

The fraudulent claims, which spanned a period of four years and eight months, saw Chadwick, from Bacup, receive £43,730 she wasn’t entitles to, according to prosecutors. The defence said that figure was closer to £34,000.

Prosecutor Mark Stephenson said the claims, which date back to August 2011, did not start off as fraudulent but Chadwick and her husband’s financial circumstances changed when his mother died and he inherited a joint share in her house. The court heard Mr Chadwick inherited the property in February 2011 and a tenant moved in the following August, paying rent of £250 per month. That was jointly split between Mr Chadwick and his brother.

The prosecution said Chadwick failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions and Rossendale Council about the change, which would have affected the couple’s entitlement to benefits.

Mr Stephenson said: “It is right to say all of these claims in the first instance were made properly and there was no deception. The total sum overpaid was £43,730.64. One thing we can be sure of is the sum of overpayment of the housing benefit is £17,300. That would not be paid if they had a house which they owned. This is not a straightforward case. The house was not strictly owned by the defendant. It was owned by her husband and her husband’s brother. This defendant is solely here today because the joint application was made in her name and not his. This is an unusual case but we can only prosecute the person who made the application.”

Chadwick, who is still unemployed and unable to work because of severe arthritis, pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances.

Defending, Mark Stuart said once his client had failed to notify the authorities of the change in circumstances it became more difficult to admit the deception as time went on. He said: “I accept, on the defendant’s behalf, the criminality is she failed to declare when her husband started to get rental income from that particular property. She ought to have done so. Effectively they received £7,500 rental income which should have been declared."

Judge Andrew Blake sentenced Chadwick to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered her to pay the statutory victim surcharge. She will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing later this year.

Source

17 Jul 2017

And now tax credit fraud

Almost £1.6billion of tax credits have been overpaid in a year due to a rise in benefit fraud and errors by HM Revenue & Customs.

The National Audit Office watchdog warned the problem was set to get worse as HMRC becomes more overstretched, and hundreds of thousands of people on low incomes move from tax credits to the new Universal Credit system.

HMRC’s annual report revealed that an estimated £1.57billion of overpayments were made due to error and fraud in 2015/16.

This is up almost 15 per cent from £1.37billion in the previous year. It is the first increase since the Coalition came to power in 2010.

About 4.4million families claim working tax credits or child tax credits to top up their income.

For the first time since 2012/13, HMRC also missed its target of ensuring the amount overpaid due to fraud or error was less than 5 per cent of the total amount paid in tax credits.

The NAO said: ‘HMRC’s estimated increase in error and fraud within tax credits is contrary to the significant reductions achieved in previous years, and the rate is expected to increase further.’

HMRC sacked US firm Concentrix last October after bringing it in to crack down on fraud. It got rid of the firm in response to claims that 45,000 people were wrongly having their benefits removed. This means HMRC staff are having to counter fraud themselves. Tougher rules designed to stop bogus benefit claims are also likely to push up the fraud figures.

Last night Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone said: ‘People will be shocked to see that while their local schools and hospitals are facing cuts, almost £1.6billion of taxpayers’ cash has been paid out due to fraud or error. Meanwhile, some people are still not receiving the payments they deserve. The Government needs to get a grip.’

Frank Field, Labour MP and former chairman of the committee, said: ‘We need to safeguard taxpayers’ money.’

Source

14 Jul 2017

BBFI discuss social housing fraud

BBFI agree with us about social housing fraud. They say

Social housing fraud is the wickedest form of welfare fraud. There’s more than the financial dimension: there isn’t enough social housing available, so every fraudulent occupation lengthens waiting lists, and every detection gives a family or individual in temporary accommodation a better life.

The Audit Commission put the cost of social housing tenancy fraud to the taxpayer nationally at £1.8 billion in 2012. Councils recovered nearly 1,800 homes in 2011, with a total replacement value of nearly £264 million. But this barely scratches the surface of the problem.

Experian suggests that at least 160,000 social homes are unlawfully sublet in the UK, but we believe this is a very low estimate. A study of social housing fraud in Westminster reported a raid on one Paddington housing block that revealed 75% of housing benefit claimants were not living in their registered properties and were illegally subletting them for thousands of pounds a week. Another raid, on the luxury 600-flat Park West development on Edgware Road, found 61% of claimants were subletting their properties. The cost of social housing fraud in the City of Westminster alone may be as much as £22 million a year.

Freeing up sublet properties would be the cheapest and quickest way to make more social housing available. There are 8 million council or housing association homes in England and 1.8 million households on the waiting list. Tackling subletting and property misuse could go a long way to releasing the 1.8 million homes to genuine tenants in waiting.

Of the 4.1 million socially owned homes 2.2 million are rented from local authorities, and 1.9 million from other social landlords. This is a national asset that needs to be protected from people who want to misuse that asset. That misuse takes many forms. For example, we will investigate:

  • Unlawful subletting, including subletting the whole property to a single household, and multiple sublets within one property
     
  • Non-occupation by tenants as their principal home
     
  • Wrongly claimed succession: retention of a tenancy following the death or vacation of the tenant following a previous succession, or of a non-qualifying person
     
  • Unlawful assignment
     
  • “Key selling”, where the tenant leaves the property and passes on the keys in return for a one-off lump sum payment or favour
     
  • Fraudulently obtaining a social housing tenancy, including misrepresentation of identity and misrepresentation of circumstances
  •  

13 Jul 2017

Light sentences in tax credit fraud trials

Two members of an organised crime group, who attempted to claim £10.2million in tax credits using stolen identities of public sector employees, have been jailed.

A further two women were handed suspended sentences.

Adedamola Oyebode, 30, from Lewisham, worked as an events and marketing assistant for the Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC). In April and June 2009, she accessed the CSSC’s password protected membership system and stole personal details of 10,300 members.

Oyebode then passed the data to her brother-in-law, Oluwatobi Odeyemi, known as Emmanuel, 34, from Gravesend. He was a key facilitator in the criminal operation, managing the stolen data used to make false tax credits claims.

Emmanuel Odeyemi’s friend, Kayode Sanni, 38, from Leeds, ensured the stolen data was used to apply for tax credits. He recruited and managed a friend, Chantelle Gumbs, 34, also of Leeds. Her job was to request the tax credits application packs from HMRC used to make fraudulent tax credits claims. The gang completed the forms, adding details of bank accounts that had been set up to commit the fraud, and returned them to HMRC.

Investigators believe the fraudsters conspired with two others who are on the run, and are appealing for information on their whereabouts. Emmanuel Odeyemi’s brother Oluwagbenga Odeyemi, known as Stephen, 39, and Stephen’s wife Oluwatumininu Banjo, 40, also known as Tumi, are thought to be in Nigeria. The couple used to live in Dagenham, Greater London.

Simon York, Director of HMRC'sFraud Investigation Service, said: “These criminals launched an organised attack on the tax credits system, a system designed to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Thanks to the experience of HMRC's officers, the effectiveness of our counter-fraud checks, and an extremely complex criminal investigation, the fraud was stopped and HMRC prevented £8 million of false claims being paid to the criminals. We will continue to tackle those committing tax credits fraud and ask anyone who has information about the two Nigerian citizens who may be connected with this fraud to call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

The scam was uncovered in late 2009 by HMRC’s identity fraud and risk teams concerned about the volume of new claims for civil servants, predominately for working tax credits. Their initial enquiries also highlighted potential sources of a data leak.

HMRC began a criminal investigation in April 2010 and through detailed forensic analysis, investigators uncovered the fraudsters, pieced together the scam, and identified the extent of the CSSC data loss.

HMRC’s investigators analysed tax credits records, recordings of phone calls to the tax credits helpline, banking data, notebooks, diaries, computer, email, and data storage devices, and mobile phone, text message and telephone records. An expert voice analyst gave evidence during Kayode Sanni’s trial.

Of the 10,300 identities stolen, 2504 were used to make fraudulent tax credits claims resulting in £2.4 million being paid out. Further claims were made but not paid but it is estimated that at least another £7.8 million would have been paid to the criminals, leading to a total attempted fraud of £10.2million.

Upon sentencing the fraudsters at the Old Bailey, His Honour Judge Dodgson, said: “It was a serious fraud that you all involved yourselves in”, adding to Sanni who stood trial, “the only remorse is that you got caught.”

Adedamola Oyebode was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, at the Central Criminal Court on July 6. She must complete 160 hours of unpaid community work and is subject to a three month curfew.

Her brother-in-law Oluwatobi Odeyemi pleaded guilty on June 13 to his role in the conspiracy. He was jailed for three and a half years at the Central Criminal Court on July 6.

Kayode Sanni was found guilty of his role in the conspiracy at the Central Criminal Court on June 26 and remanded in custody. He was jailed for five years and three months at the same court on July 6.

Chantelle Charmaine Gumbs pleaded guilty on October 14, 2015 to her role in the conspiracy. Gumbs was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, at the Central Criminal Court on July 6 and also received a rehabilitation order.

Two others are on the run and HMRC is appealing for information about their whereabouts. Oluwagbenga Odeyemi, known as Stephen and Gbenga; and his wife Oluwatumininu Banjo, known as Tumi and Charmaine Davis, are thought to be in Nigeria.

The couple used to live in Dagenham, Greater London. Anyone with information about the two Nigerian citizens who may be connected with this fraud, can call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 or +44 203 080 0871 if calling from outside the UK.

Source

12 Jul 2017

Bizarre blue badge misuse

A Lamborghini driver with a personalised number plate used a disabled parking badge to park illegally then refused to leave a restaurant when asked to hand the badge over.

Wardens spotted the distinctive red Lamborghini parked on yellow lines in Greenwich town centre on June 5. When the wardens went to put a parking ticket on the supercar, Tamer Zinnureyin stepped out from his restaurant and placed a disabled parking blue badge on the dashboard.

Zinnureyin, 40, then claimed the car wasn’t his and promptly rushed inside the next-door restaurant and refused to come out and surrender the badge.

Police arrived and were unable to locate Zinnureyin, but family members passed over the car keys and the blue badge was confiscated.

Under police interview at a later date, Zinnureyin, of High Street in Chislehurst, claimed his mum had found the badge outside the restaurant and gave it to him, with his intention being to return it.

Zinnureyin pleaded guilty to blue badge misuse and was fined £440, plus costs of £268 with a £44 victim surcharge.

Greenwich Council's cabinet member for customer services and anti-fraud, councillor Maureen O’Mara, said: “This successful prosecution shows how seriously the Royal Borough of Greenwich takes its ongoing commitment to prevent and detect fraud. We take rigorous action to stop Blue Badge misuse which is good news for all genuine Blue Badge holders who so often are inconvenienced by other car drivers who take up valuable parking spaces whilst misusing Blue Badges they have no right to use.”

Source