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23 May 2017

"Single" parent in £30k benefit fraud

A cheating mum was exposed for swindling almost £30,000 in benefits when her secret lover applied for a parking permit at her home.

Single parent Menna Bowden, 32, insisted her partner lived with his mother elsewhere.

But she was unmasked as a liar when investigators spotted him “coming and going” at her home during overnight stays in Swansea, Wales.

Swansea Crown court heard between June 2014 and March 2016 Bowen received £5,285 in income support, £8,003 in housing benefit, and £15,833 in tax credits she was not entitled to.

Recorder Timothy Petts said: “I am sure everyone in the community would like extra money to get along in life – we all have financial pressures. Benefits are there for people in need, they are not free money.”

Bowden pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud.

She was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months, and was ordered to complete a rehabilitation course.

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22 May 2017

Thief also committed benefit fraud

A benefits cheat who fraudulently claimed more than £29,000 was caught following an undercover surveillance operation.

Swansea woman Menna Bowden claimed income support, tax credits and housing benefit on the basis she was a single mum. But Swansea Crown Court heard surveillance officers saw her partner “coming and going” at her property. Her partner had also applied for a parking permit at the address - but when interviewed, the defendant claimed he lived with his mother.

The court heard Bowden’s initial claims for benefits were legitimate, but that she failed to inform the authorities when her circumstances changed.

Between June 2014 and March 2016 she received £5,285 in income support, £8,003 in housing benefit, and £15,833 in tax credits she was not entitled to.

Bowden, aged 32, had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud, and appeared at Swansea Crown Court for sentencing.

The court heard in April this year Bowden had been given a suspended prison sentence after being found guilty of stealing from her employer.

Andrew Evans, for Bowden, said the motivation for the commission of the benefit offence was the same as the theft - the financial difficulties she was experiencing. He added that his client had been complying “enthusiastically” with the court order that had accompanied last month’s suspended sentence.

Recorder Timothy Petts told Bowden that by failing to notify the authorities of changes in her circumstances she had received almost £30,000 that she was not entitled to. He said: “I am sure everyone in the community would like an extra money to get along in life - we all have financial pressures. Benefits are there for people in need, they are not free money.”

Bowden was sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months, and was ordered to complete a rehabilitation course.

The previously imposed suspended sentence was allowed to continue.

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20 May 2017

Light sentence for housing benefit fraud

A 55-year-old benefit cheat broke down in tears as a judge told her she wasn’t going to prison.

Shahnaz Malik told lies about the purchase of her home in Ainley Top, and the fraud which lasted six years led to her being paid more than £23,000 in housing benefit to which she was not entitled.

Bradford Crown Court heard claims that she had been handing over hundreds of pounds a week to the man she said had helped her to set up the scam, but a judge ordered to repay the whole sum or face jail.

Judge Jonathan Rose was told by a tearful Malik that she was taking steps to get a loan which would mean she could pay back £23,068.35. But the judge said he wanted confirmation of the loan by next month or he would treat it as a breach of the sentence and she would go to prison.

Judge Rose told Malik, who admitted making a false representation to obtain housing benefit, that he was suspending her eight-month jail term for two years, but she would be punished by having to do 150 hours unpaid work for the community.

Prosecutor David McGonigal said Malik purchased her home in April 2009, but then submitted a claim in which she said she was renting the house from a landlord.

“In order to substantiate that claim she provided a tenancy agreement and rent books,” said Mr McGonigal. “Eventually the authorities realised she did own the house and investigations were made and her claim was stopped in July 2015.”

Malik claimed that she had met a man at a wedding who had assisted her with the application, but Mr McGonigal said she was not able to provide any telephone number or details for him.

Passing sentence, Judge Rose said the case crossed the custody threshold, but after reading various documents and letters about Malik he had decided to suspend the jail term. “You have pleaded guilty to a serious offence that in plain terms is fraud,” the judge told Malik. “It is fraud on the public. It is money that is needed for those who cannot afford housing. It is not money for those who have bought their own home. Whatever the background, whoever you spoke to, you made a deliberate decision to defraud the public purse and you did it over a period of time.”

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15 May 2017

Gutless sentence for attempted housing fraud

Afshan Sultan, aged 35, from Yardley, Birmingham, pleaded guilty at Birmingham Magistrates Court on Thursday to two charges of providing false information on a housing application form and one charge of failing to inform the council of a change in her circumstances while her application was live. (h/t TenancyFraud)

She was given a community order for 180 hours unpaid work, and ordered to pay costs of £1,523.13 and a victim surcharge of £80.

When Sultan completed her initial housing application form she already owned a house which she was renting out.

She then bought another house for her extended family while her application was live and failed to disclose this too, the court was told.

Investigating officers found she was linked to other properties, stopped her application and prosecuted her.

Birmingham City Council’s director of housing, Robert James, said: “At a time when we have thousands of genuinely homeless families in Birmingham in dire need of a council house, Sultan decided to try and exploit the system despite owning two houses. Today’s sentencing sends out a clear message – we take tenancy fraud allegations seriously and we will prosecute.”

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12 May 2017

Judge criticises 'arrogant, boorish' benefit fraud model

A model jailed after falsely claiming more than £50,000 in benefits now has four weeks to pay the money back.

Carina Reid, who lived in a flat in Chelsea's exclusive King's Road, was jailed for three years last May at Isleworth Crown Court after she claimed tens of thousands of pounds in housing and council tax. The 34-year-old, who also worked as a beautician, was caught out when investigators discovered her boasting about her extravagant lifestyle on Facebook.

Reid claimed benefits to help fund holidays to Hong Kong, Dubai, Spain, Portugal, France and Switzerland. She then took to Facebook to post photos of herself enjoying the trips and sipping champagne in Harrods and dining at top London establishments including Scotts, the Dorchester Hotel and the Berkeley Hotel. She told Chelsea and Kensington Council she had no savings, taken no holidays between 2009 and 2014 and accepted free food at a mosque.

Her defence counsel Sonya Saul, said 'every effort' had been made by her client to recuperate the money. Miss Saul told the judge: 'I have explained to her the need for this matter to be resolved.'

However Judge Douglas Marks-Moore dismissed the claims, labelling Reid 'arrogant' and 'extremely boorish'. The judge told the court: 'I am sorry, this is pie in the sky. She is very arrogant in my view when she comes into this court. She has had ample opportunity I am afraid to get this money. How long has this been going on for, over a year?'

Eight of the nine dishonesty charges related to Reid’s failure to declare savings of £180,000 in 19 separate bank accounts

He added: 'She knows very well where her things were and where the money was spent. There were photographs posted on her Facebook page of her enjoying the high life. In any event this was a significant amount of money that could have been used by social services.'

A profile of Reid on her beauty business website Enhance said she was a ‘senior medical aesthetician’ who had ‘worked with a wide range of clientele, from VIP film stars, TV and radio presenters as well as on magazine shoots and celebrity events.’

Her King’s Road flat was purchased with a deposit of £20,000, and she got a mortgage based on her true tax returns which showed that Enhance was a successful business. She had also sent £116,000 abroad in 2013-2014 to acquire property in Dubai, and her LinkedIn profile indicated her desire to expand her business to Dubai and Los Angeles.

Eight of the nine dishonesty charges related to Reid’s failure to declare savings of £180,000 in 19 separate bank accounts. She was convicted of nine charges of fraud by false representation.

The judge allowed Reid an extra four weeks to recuperate the monies she stole from the taxpayer before she is due for release later this year.

Judge Marks-Morre said she had been 'extremely boorish', adding: 'Yes, I know the words that I am using.' He told her: 'You don't listen to a word I have to say anyway. You have not got a hope in hell of getting an extension. You have been playing the system in my view.'

Reid will be back in court on June 30.

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10 May 2017

Benefit cheat with £250,000 in the bank spared jail

A benefits cheat who claimed pension top-ups despite having more that quarter of a million pounds in the bank has been spared jail.

Frenny Doe plundered more than £30,000 in pension credits over a five year period after failing to declare the cash sloshing about in his bank account. But after hearing the 74-year-old, who lives in a mobile home, has paid back what he took a judge at Swindon Crown Court imposed a suspended sentence.

Chris Smyth, prosecuting, said Doe first made his claim from the Benefits Agency by phone in July 2010, continuing it until he was found out in December 2015.

When he applied he declared savings of between £4,000 and £5,000, which was below the permitted capital allowance. But in reality the former businessman had £256,995 in the joint bank account he held with his wife.

Doe admitted the money came from the sale of a property and claimed he did not think it counted. When it became apparent he would be prosecuted he said that the £32,061.05p he should not have received was repaid in full.

Doe, from Lydiard Plain, admitted making a dishonest representation to obtain benefits.

Delivering an oral report probation officer Karen Fowler said he told her the money had come from the sale of a plot of land in Winchester. It had been £600,000 but she said he had used some to buy a plot of land and mobile homes for his children to live in on the same plot as his. He had been informed by friends that he could claim pension credits, she said, and that he wasn't aware he had to declare the savings.

She said he had a number of health problems including diabetes and had stents fitted in arteries near his heart. Also, she said, his wife has had Crohn's disease, had been through leukaemia and thyroid issues and he has been her carer for many years.

Michael Butt, defending, said all of the remainder of the savings had now gone, much dissipated to his children, which meant he was now entitled to the benefit.

So you can give money away and then live on taxpayers?

But he said should his client be made subject to a curfew he had booked a cruise for next month.

I thought the rest of his savings were gone?

In the past he said he had run a pallet business which he sold up when he retired about ten years ago, Mr Butt said. He said that he resides in a mobile home and the cash hadn't been spent on lavish living.

Imposing an eight month jail term suspended for 18 months Judge Tim Mousley QC said "This is a serious offence, as all cases of benefit fraud are. I take into account that you are remorseful for what you did and that you cooperated with the investigation".

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9 May 2017

Leeds fraudster’s £20,000 ‘single mum’ lie

A Leeds woman dishonestly claimed more than £20,000 in benefits by claiming she was a single mother despite living with her husband.

Joanne Frankland, 31, carried out the deception for four years, claiming job seekers’ allowance, housing and council tax benefit which she was not entitled to. She began the offending in 2009.

Rukshanda Hussain, prosecuting, said Frankland married her husband in October 2010 but failed to inform authorities of her change in circumstances. Leeds Crown Court heard investigators obtained evidence to show she was illegally claiming benefits, including a marriage certificate which showed she shared the same address as her partner. A copy of his wage slip also revealed his salary was being paid directly into her bank account.

Frankland refused to admit what she had done when interviewed and challenged investigators to prove that she had broken the law.

A judge described her behaviour as “manipulative and dishonest.”

Mother-of-two Frankland pleaded guilty to three offences of benefit fraud. Simon Alexander, mitigating, said the offending took place at a time when Frankland’s relationship with her partner was “toxic”.

This included the time when she married him.

He said it had been an on-off relationship and she did not stop claiming benefits due to the financial uncertainties. She was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years. She was also ordered to 240 hours of unpaid work.

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Easy, wasn't it.

8 May 2017

16 social housing properties recovered in Derry

We don't usually cover Northern Ireland. But we've made an exception here: social housing fraud is the wickedest form of benefit fraud - it's more than just money, it's depriving people of a home. 

But the money's not trivial. If temporary housing costs £18,000 a year, the saving from this little local exercise is £288,000.

And if this can be saved in Derry, imagine what savings are available nationally.

Sadly, though, reclaiming 16 properties won't dent a waiting list which extends to 3,500 in Derry alone.


The Housing Executive has confirmed it has carried out over 70 tenancy fraud investigations in Derry over the past year. (h/t FraudManager)

A total of 16 properties have been recovered as a result of the 76 investigations conducted across the city during the year from April 2016 to the end of March 2017.

The figures were obtained after the Housing Executive announced an amnesty for fraudsters during the month of May as long as they hand their keys back.

The majority of the fraud investigations were conducted in the Waterside area of Derry last year. As a result of 42 probes launched, seven properties were recovered on Derry’s east bank.

A further 19 cases were investigated in the area covered by the HE’s Collon Terrace office, with six homes recovered, while another 15 were conducted from the Waterloo office of the Housing Executive in the city centre, with three properties recovered.

A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said:
In the year 2015/16, in keeping with PAC recommendations, the NIHE established an evidenced based baseline figure for the level of tenancy fraud within NIHE stock. The baseline figure was calculated as 0.6%; incorporating a 95% tolerance, this means that tenancy fraud levels would range between 0.12% and 1.08% of NIHE stock. The 2016/17 baselining exercise is not yet complete (two cases remain under investigation)but indications are that the baseline level of tenancy fraud will be in keeping with the range identified in previous audits.
Tenancy fraud includes not occupying a home, providing false or incomplete information on housing or homeless, and sub-letting your home without permission. The Housing Executive warned that tenancy fraud was unfairly depriving people on the Social Housing Waiting List.

By the start of 2017 there were almost 3,500 families or single applicants in Derry waiting to be housed.

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5 May 2017

Woman said she didn't know father owned the house she was 'renting'

Talk about an unbelievable story.

A benefit cheat who claimed she did not know the home she lived in for five years was owned by her father has been given a two year suspended prison sentence.

Kerry Donoghue, formerly of Mill Way, Bushey was sentenced to two years in custody suspended for 21 months when she appeared at St Albans Crown Court. The 32-year-old was also ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work, pay £1500 within 18 months in compensation to the council and has been put under a 12 months' supervision order. In addition, the judge imposed a six month curfew which restricts Donoghue's movements between 8pm and 6am.

Donoghue, who dishonestly claimed more than £40,000 worth of housing benefit over five years, had been found guilty of two counts of making a false representation and four counts of furnishing a false document at an earlier hearing.

During the trial, the jury heard that she had provided council officers with a false tenancy agreement which included misleading details about her landlord. An investigation by Hertsmere Borough Council later revealed the house had been bought by her father, Troy Donoghue, for £230,000 seven days before Donoghue moved in.

Sajida Bijle, the council's corporate director, said: “This case should serve as a sharp warning to potential benefit cheats that they too could end up living under the threat of a long custodial sentence. Ultimately Donoghue's actions have not only had an impact on herself, she has put other people who she knows and has involved unwittingly in her web of deceit at risk of prosecution. The wider community have also lost out as its through their taxes, fraudsters, like Donoghue, have funded their lifestyles. If you suspect someone may be fraudulently claiming benefits to help with their tenancy or council tax or have fraudulently applied for a blue badge, contact us straightaway.”

Between 26 November 2008 and 31 March 2014, Donoghue claimed £43,426.40 in housing benefit.

Donoghue told the court she paid rent to her landlord in cash on the 1st of every month. However, no deposit was paid and there are no records of the rent payments.

Following a tip-off from the Department of Work and Pensions, council officers established the property was purchased by Mr Donoghue on 14 November 2008. His daughter moved in on 22 November 2008.

Donoghue claimed not to have had any contact with her father since she was 15 and that she was unaware he owned the property.

However, prosecutors insisted that was not the case and argued Donoghue had provided false tenancy agreements in order to disguise the fact she was living in her father’s property.

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3 May 2017

Proceeds of Crime order after disability benefit fraud

A woman who falsely claimed more than £27,000 has been forced to take out a £20,000 loan to pay most of the money back, a court has heard.

Barbara Fulwood, who was given a suspended jail sentence after admitting benefit fraud, received the cash on the basis that she needed help to do her shopping, ironing and cleaning. But she later started working as a housekeeper at a local care home without notifying the DWP of the change in her condition that meant she could work.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing was told that she had benefited from her crimes by £27,155 but has repaid back £605 to the DWP. The court heard that she has available assets of £178,000, the majority of which is the equity in her home.

Judge Simon Hirst ordered that the outstanding amount of £26,550 should be confiscated from her. She was given three months to hand over the money.

David Eager, for Fulwood, said she has already raised £20,000 after taking out a loan against her property. He said she could pay that money immediately and is looking to raise the rest from friends and family.

When Fulwood was originally sentenced earlier this year Miss Edna Leonard, prosecuting, said she had initially made a legitimate claim for disability living allowance which was granted in 1995 due to mobility problems and other health issues.

Miss Leonard said: "The claim was legitimate at the outset but that changed when the defendant began working in May 2007. She was under a duty to notify the authorities of any change in her condition and failed to do so."

Fulwood, 62, from Marton, near Gainsborough, admitted a charge of fraud between May 9, 2007 and June 16, 2015. She was given a four-month jail sentence suspended for 18 months and a 10-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

David Eager, for Fulwood, said: "She has let herself down. She knows what she has done is wrong. She is not someone who is swinging the lead. She has a number of health problems. She raised her children and they left home and so she was at a loose end and took up the employment. The amount of benefit she was receiving was not a living amount. She could barely survive."

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