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17 Jan 2018

Another slow benefit fraud investigation

Fraudster Alan Surrey pocketed £38,000 in benefits while working as a door-to-door collector and care worker - despite claiming he was too unfit to have a job.

The 64-year-old received the public handouts over a 10-year period. But he was busted in 2016 after investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) carried out surveillance on the defendant.

Undercover officers filmed him - on three occasions in April and May 2016 - walking without a stick and at a normal pace.

Now Surrey, who used to live in Swynnerton and has now moved to Gnosall, near Stafford, has been jailed for 20 weeks. He admitted falsely claiming disability living allowance (DLA), housing benefit and Jobseekers' Allowance between 2006 and 2016.

Shrewsbury Crown Court heard Surrey's initial DLA claim had been genuine, he needed a stick to walk and he received the higher rate of mobility allowance. His circumstances changed within two years and he landed a job as a carer working with young adults. He was later employed by Provident Personal Credit as a door-to-door loan collector.

In 2013, Surrey made claims for housing benefit from Stafford Borough Council as well as Jobseekers' Allowance.

Prosecutor Naomi Nelson-Cofie said: "He said he was not working when he clearly was and these claims were both false and dishonest from the outset."

Stephen Rudge, representing Surrey, said his client was not in the best of health and that his initial DLA claim had been genuine. He suggested Surrey had 'misunderstood' the law and believed he could work for a few hours but had failed to notify the authorities of any changes to his situation. Mr Rudge said the monies had not been used to fund luxuries but to pay debts and for day-to-day living costs.

To report benefit fraudsters, call the national benefit fraud hotline on 0800 854440.

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16 Jan 2018

Predictable left-wing benefit fraud bias from The Independent

More than 280,000 public tip-offs on benefit fraud in the past two years have resulted in no action being taken against a claimant due to lack of evidence, The Independent can disclose.

The revelation has led to claims the Government is guilty of creating a “witch-hunt”, with critics calling on ministers to re-evaluate the contentious system, suggesting members of the public should not have a role in identifying and investigating fraud within the welfare state.

Through the DWP Fraud and Error Service, members of the public can log their suspicions about those they believe are committing benefit fraud.

Details can be reported either through a fraud hotline or online, and include eye colour, piercings, scars, age, national insurance number, email address, nickname and date of birth.

But information obtained by The Independent through freedom of information laws reveals that over the financial years 2015-16 and 2016-17, 332,850 cases were closed following reports by members of the public. Of these, 287,950 were found to have no or little evidence to substantiate the claim – or 87 per cent.

When no further is action is taken by the department against a claimant because there is no or insufficient evidence of fraud discovered, the case is recorded as a “no result outcome”.

In March 2017, for example, out of 18,200 allegations from members of the public closed by the department, 16,050 led to a “no result outcome”. This means that around 88 per cent of the total allegations made in one single month had little or no evidence of benefit fraud having taken place and the cases were dropped. Overall in the year 2016-17, nearly 174,000 allegations were closed and 149,450 – or 86 per cent – were incorrect allegations.

The data appears to show that members of the public are overestimating the issue of benefit fraud in Britain and that the Government’s policy of using tip-offs is much less effective than many are led to believe.

Or it could be that the system is ponderous and investigators are overwhelmed by the sheer numbers. Of course there will be some malicious allegations, but many will be based on local observation on the ground.

Here we go with left-wing opposition reactions.

Responding to the figures, Debbie Abrahams, the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “Any fraud or abuse of our social security system should be dealt with quickly and proportionately. However, the Conservative Government have long directly and indirectly implied that all recipients are ‘shirkers and skivers’. The punitive way the Tories have delivered social security policies, such as sanctions and fitness for work assessments, reflects this approach. What these figures show is how flimsy the ground is for this divisive rhetoric. The Government should instead focus on getting their own house in order and tackle the failing PIP [Personal Independence Payment] and ESA [Employment and Support Allowance] assessments as well as pausing and fixing their botched Universal Credit roll-out.”

Neil Gray, the SNP MP and the party’s social justice spokesperson, said that while those who abuse the system should be dealt with, the “responsibility of identifying and investigating benefit fraud should be with the DWP, not your neighbours. These new figures show the Tories are guilty of creating a witch-hunt which demonises low-paid workers relying on tax credits and the sick and disabled who are unable to work. It’s another example of the Tories dividing communities as neighbours become suspicious of each other.”

Of course if the masses couldn't report suspicions of benefit fraud, they would just settle back into dumb contentment, no?

And Sir Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat leader, said the scale of benefit fraud “is not remotely comparable to the industrial-scale problem of tax avoidance by big corporations and the extremely wealthy. Yet the Conservatives seem to think they can get more money back by using far fewer resources getting people to act as sneaks, turning people against each other.”

A spokesperson for the DWP said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants commit fraud, but those who do are diverting support from people who need it the most. Calls to the fraud hotline are vital in tackling this crime – and information from the public helped us detect more than £45m in benefit fraud in 2016 alone.”

Previous data, covering the years 2010 to 2015, found that the DWP closed 1,041,219 alleged cases of benefit fraud from members of the public. Of these, 887,468 were recorded as a “no result” outcome – or 85 per cent.

According to Government data in 2017, fraud in the benefit system accounted for 1.2 per cent of the entire DWP budget, amounting to just over £2bn. But as well as individuals, it is estimated that criminal gangs have also been abusing the system to the tune of tens of millions of pounds. Until recently, the DWP often used advertising to persuade members of the public to come forward and use the Government’s hotline if they suspected neighbours and other members of the public to be committing benefit fraud, telling them they had a “role” to play in stopping such activity.

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, added: “The vast majority of people claiming benefits simply need support but all too often what they get is suspicion and scapegoating as scroungers. It’s time we saw our welfare system as a valuable part of a strong future facing economy and no longer encouraging friends, neighbours and colleagues to treat one another with suspicion could be a positive step in the right direction.”

It's remarkable how left-wing politicians regard people as malleable. Take away the chance to report suspects, and people won't mind at all, these politicians suggest.

The politicians might instead ask how the ponderous DWP investigators manage to make so little of this detailed, on the ground knowledge.


Source

12 Jan 2018

Illegal immigrant in £32k benefit fraud

A judge has slammed the Home Office for failing to deport an illegal immigrant who entered the UK on the back of a lorry to illegally claim £32,000 in benefits.

Kerim Koroglu, 49, pocketed handouts he was not entitled to collect for more than six years after he sneaked into the country in a lorry on 30 August 2002.

Koroglu used a fake ‘leave to remain’ letter to swindle £32,549 in housing and council tax benefits from Hackney Council.

The false document, described by prosecutor Will Martin as ‘very convenient’, purported to grant Koroglu asylum in 2004, enabling him to claim the welfare and bring his wife and two children over from Turkey.

The Alawi Kurd, representing himself, said he had no idea where the letter came from.

But he was convicted of benefit fraud by an Old Bailey jury and jailed for 30 months. Koroglu now faces deportation after living illegally in the UK for more than 15 years.

Before sentencing the fraudster the judge, Mr Recorder Oliver Sells, QC, grilled Heather Laing, an immigration officer, on how he was able to use an unsigned letter to dupe the authorities.

The judge said: ‘It became clear during the trial that this defendant had, to use your words, exhausted his appeals by the end of 2002 and as you say in your statement he should have left voluntarily at that stage but where people do not do so – putting it bluntly – he should have been deported.’

Ms Laing, said: ‘Mr Keroglu came into the system when it was very reliant on paper and human investigation, his file became lost in the system and I think that is set out in the witness statement. What became of the file at the time I am not aware of but it did come back into light.’

The judge said: ‘None of what happened thereafter would have if the Home Office had carried out its function properly. That is the point of enquiry into this case, it is not simply an administrative failure. As we have seen in these courts only too frequently, the long term consequences and the substantial costs to the public that should never have been – and still public funds are being expended.

‘It is also apparent that there were other opportunities between 2002 and 2012 when these matters finally came to light, which were missed by the Home Office. The document itself, I do not know if you have seen it – no, I would like you to see it, this is a letter purportedly dated 14 February 2004 to this defendant in a form with which I would expect you’re familiar.

‘This letter was for him a very important document indeed with enormous consequences for people in his family, but also for the public – but it is not sent by anybody with a name, there is no signature to refer to and no author to verify – why is that? It is opening the way for fraud isn’t it? It is making life for dishonest people much easier. There were a number of opportunities to assess this letter but it wasn’t in fact assessed for many years.’

Koroglu smuggled himself into the country on the back of a truck in 2002 and then used the help of criminals to obtain the false documentm the court heard.

Prosecutor Will Martin said: ‘Mr Koroglu came to this country seeking asylum in 2002, he made an application as a refugee in August 2002 which was refused. He took the matter to appeal, the appeal was not successful and by the end of 2002 Mr Koroglu had no appeal rights left – they were exhausted. It was at that point that Mr Keroglu had no basis to be in this country.

‘In 2006, Mr Koroglu made an application to the London Borough of Hackney for council tax benefit and housing tax benefit.

‘These applications it became clear were made on the back of a false ‘leave to remain’ letter that letter was dated 2004, but it is likely it came into his possession in 2006 because it was in the spring of 2006 that Mr Keroglu started to bring his wife and two children over on the back of the same document with an application for visas made in Istanbul.

‘Mr Koroglu maintains and still maintains that he did not know that the letter was false despite correspondence from the Home Office on multiple occasions.

‘On 29 May 2012 Mr Koroglu presented the document to the investigating officer with the intention of misleading the London Borough of Hackney.

‘In subsequent interviews under caution he sought to blame the Home Office and Home Office administration and that was the account which was maintained and disbelieved at the three day trial in November.’

Koroglu, a married painter and decorator, has three children living in the country – one of whom was born here.

He was convicted of swindling £27,289 in housing benefit and £5,100 in council tax benefit, as well as using false documentation after an Old Bailey trial.

The judge said: ‘I have given anxious consideration as to whether it would be right in this case to suspend any sentence. I should be failing in my duty to the public if I took such a course, these are serious offences.

‘They are coercive of public trust in the benefits system and they are very difficult to detect.

‘The Home Office had both the power and the information which they should and could have used to remove you from this country – their failure to do so reflects upon their conduct at the time.

‘But in the final analysis you and those who supported that document where the architects of these actions, while the Home Office could have prevented you by removing you, you have a responsibility to obey the law even if you were here illegally.’

Koroglu, from Shoreditch, was sentenced to 30 months for obtaining property by deception and 24 months concurrent for obtaining the false documentation.

He denied the offences.

Source

11 Jan 2018

Repeat offender in £176,000 benefits fraud

Here is a very bad case of benefit fraud. The offence was described as unsophisticated, yet she got away with it for eight years and netted £176,000. 

And she was already subject to a suspended sentence for illegally claiming more than £22,000 in tax credits when she carried out the offending  - which you would think might have flagged her up for extra scrutiny. But no. 

She seems to have been able to tell the authorities that her son had a severe, chronic illness without anyone to troubling themselves to check, despite her record. The most basic check would have revealed he was fine.

Of course, we won't get our money back. It's gone.


A mother of six illegally claimed more than £170,000 in benefits by making false claims about the health of her children.

Rebecca Walker told authorities that her youngest child was suffered from cystic fibrosis, had fits, severe behavioural problems, was unable to walk unaided and suffered from chronic asthma. When assessed by specialists the youngster was described as not being different from any other children and was a "pleasant, hard working boy."

Walker also claimed she was a single parent throughout the eight-year deception despite living with a partner.

Walker, 37, from Kippax, was jailed for 21 months after pleading guilty to 11 offences of fraud.

A court heard Walker was subject to a suspended sentence for illegally claiming more than £22,000 in tax credits when she carried out the offending.

Leeds Crown Court heard Walker claimed more than £145,000 in tax credits between 2008 and 2016. She also made illegal claims for carers allowance, disability living allowance, council tax benefit, housing benefit, income support and unemployment support.

A judge who jailed Walker said she had used the money to pay for luxuries rather than basic living.

Ben Thomas, prosecuting, said each child was awarded disability living allowance and claims were "grossly exaggerated."

The prosecutor said Walker made claims in 2011 that her three-year-old son had cystic fibrosis, suffered from fits and had black-outs. She later told authorities that the youngster was unable to use the toilet alone and would scream and bite her when she tried to look after him. Walker also claimed the boy had severe behavioural problems and could not interact with other children.

When the boy started school he was described by specialists as "an active little boy."

Walker was asked to attend an interview when the offending came to light but told the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that she had to take her son to hospital as he needed to go into intensive care. She attended later interviews but refused to comment.

The court heard Walker had repaid £1,313 of the illegally claimed sum but had no more available assets. There is little prospect of the full amount being returned to the taxpayer.

Kenton Sargeant, mitigating, said the offending was not sophisticated.

He said: "Most of it was done by ringing up and giving the information. There was nothing to suggest she provided forged documents."

Mr Sargeant said Walker had a troubled childhood and wanted to give her children what she never had. He said: "I accept that the way she has done that is wholly unlawful and she accepts it is something for which she will have to go to custody today." He added that Walker suffered from a spinal condition and would struggle in custody.

Source with picture

8 Jan 2018

Benefit-cheat big and get away with it

A benefits cheat who stole more than £100,000 over ten years will not have to pay any of it back, a court has ordered. (h/t Dave)

Linda Brown, from Blackbird Leys, Oxford, was spared jail for the 12-year scam at Oxford Crown Court in August.

The court heard that the 60-year old had fraudulently claimed £109,186.34 in income support, employment and support allowance, council tax benefit and housing benefit.

She had pocketed the cash between September 1 2004 and April 4 2016 telling Oxford City Council and the department for work and pensions that she was the sole occupier of her home.

Brown was rumbled, however, when it emerged her parter who was earning more than £20,000 had been living with her for more than a decade.

At the same court on Thursday prosecutors told a proceeds of crime hearing that the Crown Prosecution Service would not be going ahead with any claim to recover the ill gotten gains.

They argued that 'her lack of assets' meant it would not be possible to recover the haul of money that she had stolen.

Accepting the submission to discontinue the application Record Nigel Daly ordered that she would still have to pay a statutory victim surcharge for the crime, which totals about £80.

Brown had already admitted the four counts of fraud for each benefit ahead of her sentencing at Oxford Crown Court on August 24 last year.

In mitigation Ronan McCann said at the time that his client had been under 'immense' financial pressure and had been acting as a carer for her parents.

He told the court that her mindset had been one of 'utter chaos' and added: "Your honour is well aware of individuals who will enjoy the finer things in life because of dishonest claims. This is not an individual known to have indulged in any of these luxuries."

She was given a six month jail term, suspended for 18 months.

Source

1 Jan 2018

The writing is on the wall (or the form)

Artificial intelligence will be used to clamp down on fraudsters claiming millions of pounds of bogus benefit payments.

The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said its new state-of-the-art algorithms can detect a number of identity cloning techniques which have been commonly used by organised criminal gangs committing mass-scale benefit fraud.

The DWP says it has extensively trialled the technology, which will scan across the benefit system, including Universal Credit, Jobseeker's Allowance and Personal Independent Payments.

Source

What's interesting here is that the DWP is so concerned about "mass-scale benefit fraud" that it is taking special measures to address it.

We hear relatively little about "mass-scale benefit fraud". If this is actually effective, then, it should show up in the figures.

Here is the latest large scale benefit fraud noted on this blog.

A happy new year to all our readers.

30 Dec 2017

Benefit cheat claimed rent for Bolton house he owned

A benefit cheat continued to claim thousands of pounds to cover rent for a house he had already bought.

Anil Kala began legitimately claiming benefits in September, 2013, but the following year large amounts of cash began going through his bank account.

Craig Macgregor, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court that between March, 2014 and September, 2016 around £155,000 was paid into 42-year-old Kala's account. The maximum amount of capital allowed to be held by benefit claimants is £16,000.

When questioned by investigators Kala initially claimed the money had been given to him by his mother who had sold some jewellery and then stated that she had sold land in India in order for him to buy a house.

But the court heard that the money had been paid into Kala's account in numerous small amounts from locations in Southern England and Wales.

Kala bought the home he had been renting for £125,000, but still kept on claiming £350 universal credit payments towards renting it.

Mr Macgregor said that, in total, Kala wrongly claimed a total of £18,137.22 he was not entitled to.

Kala pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances and making false representations to obtain benefits.

Nicholas Ross, defending, stressed Kala has health issues and long-standing problems with gambling and alcohol.

Sentencing Kala to six months in prison, suspended for two years, Judge Richard Gioserano told him: "I am not sure I am prepared to accept this money was coming from your mother. Over quite a period of time you ended up with over £18,000 of public money you should not have had."

Kala must also wear an electronic tag for four months and be subject to a 9pm to 7am curfew as well as participating in 25 days of rehabilitation activities.

A proceeds of crime hearing will be held in April next year in order to attempt to recover the money he wrongly took.

Source

A weak sentence for a deliberate crime, and as the judge hinted there is more to Mr Kala's finances than meets the eye.

As with all assets benefit frauds, he should have to pay back at least twice what he stole.

26 Dec 2017

Another pensioner benefit cheat nabbed

Benefit cheat pensioner Kenneth Hickman claimed more than £21,000 – despite owning a second house.

An investigation revealed the ‘greedy’ 69-year-old had a home in Bucknall valued at £184,950 while he was in receipt of both pension credit and council tax benefit.

Now the retired joiner has been spared jail as he continues to pay back the cash to the DWP and Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

Prosecutor Brett Wilson told Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court: “When he made his application for benefits he had a property registered on Werrington Road in Bucknall. It had been marketed on at least two occasions from when he was in receipt and the value of that property was £184,950.”

The court heard Hickman received a total of £21,400 he wasn’t entitled to.

He went on to plead guilty to dishonestly making false statements for payment in relation to the DWP and city council.

Heather Drew, mitigating, said Hickman, had already paid back around £16,000. She told the court: “This was an early guilty plea and he was co-operative with the authorities.”

Recorder Nicholas Syfret QC said Hickman had lost his good character. He told the defendant: “A man of your age should not be coming before the courts. You quite clearly are remorseful. It was a greedy thing to do and you know you’re being exposed for your greed and everyone will know in times of hardship you have taken £21,000 out of the pot for people less well off than you. I have no doubt you’re ashamed of what you have done.”

Recorder Syfret sentenced Hickman to an 18-month community order with 120 hours unpaid work. He added: “You should repay the community for your wrong-doing.”

A DWP spokesman said the prosecution had been brought about due to Hickman’s failure to report ownership of a second property, and the rental income he was receiving.

He added: “The DWP has set in place recovery plans to recover all of the overpayment, a plan he is currently in compliance with.”

Source

Benefit fraudsters with assets over the limit should have to pay back twice what they stole. Money motivated them, so hit them in the pocket.

23 Dec 2017

Pensioner gets away with long term benefit fraud

A benefit cheat who pocketed more than £72,000 he was not entitled to by pretending he was not married has been spared jail.

Pensioner Louis Bell claimed state handouts for 15 years or more on the basis he was a single man, failing to mention he had a wife who was working.

A court heard the accepts his actions were “despicable” but says it started off due to his debts then he felt he “couldn’t get out of the hole he was in”.

The 69-year-old is remorseful, apologetic and has started paying back his ill-gotten gains, Newcastle Crown Court was told.

Now Bell has been given a suspended sentence and was made subject to a six month curfew meaning he has to stay in his home at night.

Nick Lane, prosecuting, said: “Over the course of the life of the payments, there were a number of occasions when he was required to make new claims or confirm his details. He failed to declare he was in fact a married man and his wife was in receipt of a salary. He said his daughter lived with him but made no admission his wife was living there. Evidence showed she worked 24 hours a week and they were living together. The fraud was clearly fraudulent from the outset and he had numerous opportunities to set this right which he did not do.”

The court heard Bell began claiming income support in 2000 on the basis he was a single man with no other source of income and this continued until 2008, when he reached retirement age. From then until 2016 he got pension credit on the basis he was a single man. Also, from 2000 to 2008, he was receiving housing benefit and council tax benefit from Sunderland Council.

Recorder Anthony Kelbrick told him: “For a long time you have been utterly dishonest and fraudulently claimed benefit and have deprived the public purse of £72,806 by your dishonesty. The only question I have to decide is whether or not, in the circumstances of your offending, it would be right to suspend the sentence of imprisonment. There are many judges sitting in this court who would simply say they would not even consider suspending such a sentence, despite your age and previous good character. In this case I am prepared to suspend the sentence.”

Bell, from Sunderland, admitted four benefit fraud charges and was sentenced to 20 months suspended for 12 months with a six month curfew between 7pm and 7am.

The court heard he has started paying back the money at a rate of £330 a month.

Jennifer Coxon, defending, said: “He is a well thought of father and husband and will do anything for his family to ensure they are supported. In 2000 there was a sense of desperation as he was in financial difficulties. He fully accepts this was an unlawful and despicable thing to do. It was out of sheer desperation to ensure he didn’t lose his family and property. He used the money to keep him afloat, for his debts and the mismanagement of his finances.

“After his interview with the DWP he felt such a sense of relief. He explained he couldn’t get out of the hole he was in. He didn’t appreciate the help that could have been offered from other services to manage his debts. He is now in a position where he is no longer in debt. He has to deal with the shame. His family are now fully aware of what he has done and are shocked at his behaviour.

“He wholeheartedly apologises to everyone involved.”

Source

He got away with that, didn't he. 

I wonder where his family thought the money was coming from?

20 Dec 2017

Scaffolder was "disabled" benefit cheat

Benefit cheat William Marshall pocketed more than £50,000 in handouts - while working as a scaffolder.

The 64-year-old claimed disability living allowance (DLA) and employment support allowance (ESA) on the grounds he had arthritis and was working less than 16 hours-a-week.

But Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) investigators carried out surveillance and caught the defendant on camera as he worked as a scaffolder and lugged heavy poles about.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard the defendant had claimed DLA from 1996 and ESA from July 2013 to November 2015.

Prosecutor Alexander Pritchard-Jones said: “He was in receipt of ESA on the grounds of arthritis in his knee, back and shoulders. It was paid to him on the basis he was unemployed and not doing paid work of more than 16 hours-a-week. The DWP conducted surveillance and it transpired he was working as a scaffolder for more than 16 hours-a-week and the information provided on the claim form was wrong. The DWP say he was working competently and did not deserve the money he was receiving. The total claimed was in excess of £50,000.”

Marshall pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances in relation to his benefit claims.

Stuart Muldoon, mitigating, conceded the offences were aggravated by the length of time over which the claims were made. He said: “The DLA was given for life - there was no annual re-registration. He accepts by returning to work and not notifying the agency he is guilty of the offences.”

The court heard Marshall - who has no previous convictions - has repaid all of the ESA payments and is paying back the DLA at a rate of £100-a-month.

Judge Paul Glenn sentenced Marshall to nine months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days and a six-month electronically-monitored curfew from 9pm to 5am.

He told the defendant: “You claimed benefits to which you were not entitled. You said you were unfit to work due to arthritis but when your circumstances changed you did not notify the DWP. Video surveillance showed you working as a scaffolder, carrying wooden boards and metal poles up and down scaffolding. Benefit fraud is prevalent. It is very easy to commit and very difficult to detect. The cost to the honest taxpayer is significant. You knew what you were doing. The DLA you were receiving was an additional tax-free income of about £3,500-a-year. You have come as close as anyone can come to a custodial sentence without going away.”

Source with video