17 Nov 2017

17 month investigation for social housing fraud

Reading Borough Council shows how to make a mountain out of a molehill. This just is not competent, cost-effective enforcement.

They didn't even discover the offence for themselves, it came as a result of a tip off.

A tenant who illegally sub-let his council flat has been convicted of fraud and ordered to pay hundreds of pounds. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Victor Carrington, formerly of Granville Road, admitted to two counts of fraud at Reading Magistrates' Court on November 10 after being under the microscope since November 2015.

He was fined a total of £743, with an additional £600 in costs awarded to Reading Borough Council.

The council's fraud investigation team had a tip-off from concerned residents.

Carrington had been a council tenant since 2005, but after leaving the address, he sub-let the property to his friend without informing the council that he was no longer living there.

Reading Borough Council leader Jo Lovelock said:
There has never been more demand for social housing and the council has duty to ensure social homes are available to those that need them. This prosecution shows the council will not tolerate tenancy fraud. The council will investigate all cases robustly and where offences are uncovered take the necessary legal action to recover the property.
During a 17-month investigation, housing officers used banking and CCTV evidence.

When they arranged to visit the property, Carrington ensured he was available to see them and completed false statements confirming he still lived at the address.

He also failed to disclose that someone else was living at the flat.

The property has now been let to another council tenant after being returned to the council in June.

Carrington admitted one count of fraud and another of prevention of social housing fraud.


16 Nov 2017

Tenancy fraud in north east England

Northumberland County Council is leading the way on tenancy fraud in the region, following the establishment of the North East Tenancy Fraud Forum (NE-TFF) earlier this year. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Set up by the county council's corporate fraud team, the forum membership includes registered social landlords and local authorities from across the North East.

To raise awareness of tenancy fraud, the NE-TFF is campaigning across the region this week as part of International Fraud Awareness Week and will cover areas including abandonment, subletting and misrepresentation. The council’s fraud team are encouraging residents to report any suspected fraudulent behaviour and will investigate any reports made.

It is estimated that tenancy fraud costs the country more than £50million a year, leaving families who are in desperate need of secure and affordable housing in temporary accommodation.

This is a huge underestimate - see previous post.

The awareness week will focus around four key themes:
  • Abandonment of properties by tenants which can lead to squatting and vandalism of properties. The team have been working alongside housing officers since April 2014 and has successfully recovered 18 properties from abandonment, which are now being used as social housing;
  • False applications for social properties, including false homeless applications;
  • Right to Buy fraud, which includes providing false information on Right to Buy or Right to Acquire applications and buying a property through a third party. In the past 12 months, Northumberland County Council has withdrawn 30 Right to Buy applications, further saving £1.2million in discounts;
  • Unlawful subletting of properties, where a tenant rents out their home without the knowledge or permission of the landlord.
New legislation has given investigators powers to obtain more information when investigating tenancy fraud to ensure fraudsters are caught and made accountable for their actions.

Coun John Riddle, cabinet member for housing, said: "International Fraud Awareness Week is an excellent opportunity to spread knowledge and awareness across the county and the region on tenancy fraud.

"Tenancy fraud can lead to anti-social behaviour in neighbourhoods and leaves families who are in desperate need of housing on the waiting list, and in temporary accommodation. Cracking down on tenancy fraud will undoubtedly benefit many families across the county."

15 Nov 2017

The annual cost of tenancy fraud

According to The Stack (h/t Tenancy Fraud)
There are currently 1,174 housing associations operating in the UK, providing accommodation to local councils for those on low incomes or who need extra support. However, issues such as social housing fraud, which the University of Portsmouth estimates is costing the UK £1.76 billion a year, are making it increasingly harder to provide the right service to citizens in need.
The Audit Commission put the cost of social housing tenancy fraud to the taxpayer nationally at £1.8 billion in 2012, so this certainly isn't an extreme estimate.

Remember, this is an annual figure. And it's additional to more conventional benefit fraud, which even parts of the government admit are over £2bn, but which is probably nearer £5bn in all.

10 Nov 2017

Benefit fraud in France

As France continues its crackdown on unemployment benefit fraud it has emerged that fourteen percent of job seekers are abusing a system already considered by many to be too generous.

The country's national employment agency Pole Emploi has led a controversial crack down on job seekers in recent months to root out the fraudsters

The inspections found that out of 270,000 checks on job seekers, some 14 percent should not have been eligible.

In May 2015, the board of directors at the Pole Emploi took steps to crack down on the number of people abusing the unemployment system, appointing 200 staff to carry out 12,000 checks every month.

France's unemployment system is considered one of the most generous in Europe - claimants can be pad up to €6,200 a month for two years - although most receive only €500 a month.

On average, French job seekers are on an allowance of €1,010 per month.

Successive governments have been been urged to make cuts as well as crack down on those cheating the system.


Jail after illegal sub-letting

Mustafa Mustafa, 33, has been jailed following a successful prosecution by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

In March 2014 Mustafa obtained a one-bedroom council property at Middle Park Avenue, but the council received information alleging he no longer lived at the property and was subletting to others.

Financial enquiries identified Mustafa had received regular payments into his bank account and from April 2014 to October 2016 he had payments in excess of £10,000 with over £2,000 of this described as ‘rent’ on bank statements.

Enquiries also identified Mustafa had spent at least 17 months out of the UK since April 2014.

In November 2016 Royal Borough investigators visited the property and spoke with a male who confirmed his wife and child had been residing there since August 2014 and that he paid his wife’s monthly rent of £700 to her landlord, Mr Mustafa. He confirmed that he had also paid Mr Mustafa an initial payment of £2,150 to cover the deposit, one month’s rent and to cover the costs of the credit checks and references on his wife Mustafa stated he needed to undertake.

In January 2017 council investigators interviewed Mustafa under caution. He admitted shortly after obtaining the council property he had gone to live in Northern Cyprus and been abroad at least a-year-and-a-half. Mustafa was shown evidence of his subletting but denied he made any money from it and he had allowed a friend of a friend to stay.

But when shown documents bearing his signature relating to the £2,150 payment from his tenant he agreed that this was his writing. Mr Mustafa confirmed that he had never lived at the Middle Park Avenue property and allowed others to live there while he was out of the UK.

Enquiries also found Mustafa claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support from March 2014 to February 2016 and he had not declared he was not living at the property and had sublet it to others.

He received benefits totalling almost £9,000 that he was not entitled to receive.

After the interview Mr Mustafa returned the keys to the property which was re-allocated to a person in genuine need. On October 24 Mustafa pleaded guilty to four charges at Woolwich Crown Court and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.

The court also heard offences committed by Mr Mustafa fell within a period of a suspended prison sentence for other offences and he was jailed for a further 17 weeks.

Councillor Maureen O’Mara is cabinet member for customer services and anti-fraud. She said: “Mr Mustafa’s actions were shameful and I am pleased they led to prison. Let this be a warning to others who think subletting much-needed council property is acceptable.”


9 Nov 2017

Proceeds of Crime order will be sought against benefit fraudster

A benefits cheat faces having some of his belongings confiscated.

Craig Clancy admitted benefit fraud totalling £20,000 when he appeared at Kirklees Magistrates’ Court.

The charge relates to the 41-year-old’s claim for Employment Support Allowance between April 2014 and March 2016.

He was living at an address in Ainley Top at the time but dishonestly failed to tell the DWP about a change in his circumstances affecting his entitlement to the benefit.

Prosecutor Vanessa Jones told the Huddersfield court that Clancy failed to disclose that he had two jobs. She explained that this resulted in an overpayment of just over £20,000 to him.

Mrs Jones asked magistrates to commit his case to Leeds Crown Court for sentencing. She explained: “It would normally be within your powers to deal with it. But on this occasion I invite you to commit him for sentencing as, under the Proceeds of Crime Act, there will be an application for confiscation proceedings.”

A judge can make a confiscation order to deprive the defendant of a benefit he or she has obtained through criminal conduct.

Clancy was committed for sentencing to Leeds Crown Court. He will appear there on November 28 and, as he has no previous convictions, a probation report will be prepared on the day of his hearing.


8 Nov 2017

Young children save benefit fraud mother from jail

A shamed benefit cheat who splashed cash on a personalised car number plate and a holiday to Turkey while fleecing the taxpayer has walked free from court.

Mother-of-three Janine Rae pocketed around £30,000 of various state handouts she was not entitled to, a court heard. Her claims had begun legitimately but she failed to declare that she had got married and was living with her husband for a time.

Rae said he worked abroad and that his contributions to the family were unreliable - but claimed it was his money that had paid for a holiday to Turkey and the registration plate while the state handouts got spent on her children.

Now the 34-year-old has been given a suspended prison sentence at Newcastle Crown Court after pleading guilty to four offences of benefit fraud - some of it spanning up to four years.

Recorder Keith Miller said: “You have children and I wonder how you would feel if they were sitting in this court watching their mother, a convicted criminal. I wonder how you would feel about that, the sort of example you have set to them.”

Rae replied: “Ashamed.”

The judge added: “I hope that is indeed the feeling you have because you are in a shameful position. It’s a terrible example for any mother, who ought to be setting her children a good example.

“It also has a great effect on society. You may think the extra money you had just comes from the government or the taxpayer but the reality is fraud of this nature in our country is on a colossal scale and it stops people who should be receiving perhaps more benefits from getting what they ought to have, as there’s less money available to be spent.”


7 Nov 2017

Sad case, but still benefit fraud

A former RAF sergeant who claimed he and his wife were unemployed to collect thousands of pounds in housing benefit has escaped jail.

Father-of-three Kevin Chapman lied for 17 months to gain almost £15,000 after he struggled to provide for his family.

The 44-year-old and his teacher wife returned to Salisbury from Jersey in 2013 when her mother became ill but he was unable to secure a well-paid job. The couple’s finances began to spiral out of control and they mounted up £20,000 worth of credit card debt, despite owning a house which was earning them £750 a month in rent.

Salisbury Crown Court heard that Chapman filled out a form to claim housing benefit and council tax reduction stating that he and his wife were unemployed on August 19, 2013. Chapman knew that his wife was due to start work as a supply teacher on September 1 but he continued to state that they were both unemployed, even when he started work at Halfords on October 4. He also failed to declare that his wife owned a house in Larkhill but said the rental income just about paid the mortgage.

Prosecuting Andrew Stone said: “This was fraudulent from the outset. When he filled in the form on August 19 he said there was no property when in fact there was.”

The court heard that once Chapman started lying to the DWP it became difficult for him to say that he no longer needed the money.

Defending, Nigel Dyer said Chapman and his wife had split up due to the pressure of the case, and he was now sofa surfing. He said Chapman has taken a night manager position at Asda in Gillingham to be able to look after his children during the day. He added that Chapman was willing to pay money each month to pay off his debts.

Chapman had admitted two counts of fraud by false representation to gain £14,739.62 at an earlier hearing.

Sentencing him to nine months in prison suspended for 18 months, Judge Richard Parkes said that Chapman showed fraudulent behaviour from the outset to steal from the public purse.

“I am very sorry to hear you and your wife have split up from the pressure of this. I don’t imagine for a moment that you will offend again, it seems to me you have made a very serious mistake but because you were in serious financial trouble you have got yourself into more serious trouble.”

Judges Parkes also ordered Chapman to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work, and pay back £200 a month to the DWP for three years.


Gambling addict mother avoids jail after £68k benefit fraud

Vicky Law told the DWP she was a single parent when she was living with her civil engineer partner who was in full-time work, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard. (h/t Fraudmanager)

The 35-year-old claimed Income Support, Housing and Council Tax Benefit and Child Tax Credit to which she was not entitled, illegally pocketing £67,853 before the three-year con was discovered.

“This was deliberately fraudulent from the outset,” declared Miss Samantha Powis, prosecuting. “There was never a period during the duration of her offending that she and her partner were not living together.”

The partner declined to attend a voluntary interview with DWP officials investigating the fraud and claimed to know nothing about either her dishonesty or her expensive habit, the court was told.

Mr Rashad Mohammed, defending, explained: “She was always fond of gambling and, after she got bored at home, it became an addiction. She started to take money from her partner without his knowledge and when she went to the shop to buy groceries she purchased scratch cards instead. She then made fraudulent applications for benefit and used the money to fund her gambling addiction for several years. She won sometimes but has nothing to show for the money she took and gambled away. She is very ashamed and the gambling is still a problem but her partner has now taken full control of the family finances."

Law is due to see a counsellor at Penn Hospital in a bid to deal with her addiction, said Mr Mohammed, who continued: “She knew all along that things would catch up with her and one day she would be facing the consequences of her actions. She is suicidal, self harming and finding it difficult to cope.”

Her partner is now her registered carer, looking after both her and their children, while the family have money taken from their genuine benefits to cover the loss. It will take 20 years for the debt to be settled, the court heard.

Law, from Bilston and of previous good character, pleaded guilty to illegally claiming benefits between 2012 and 2015. She was given a 13-month jail term suspended for two years with 100 hours’ unpaid work.

Judge Simon Ward said: “The tax payers of the West Midlands will think what you did was outrageous. The irony is that the state is now paying for your partner to care for you because you are now suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of the situation you put yourself in. There is a powerful argument for me to send you straight to prison as a deterrent to others but I have to consider your family as well and draw a balance which, by a hair’s breadth, falls in your favour.”


6 Nov 2017

Mother in £26k benefit fraud

A mother-of-two who banked £26,000 of tax payers’ money in a two-year benefit fraud has avoided jail.

Tanya Comber failed to alert Maidstone Borough Council when her partner moved into her home and continued to claim housing benefits and income support.

The 47-year-old took home £9,000 in income support while £17,000 was credited to her bank account during the swindle between 2014 and 2016.

Maidstone Magistrates’ Court heard Comber had built up a mountain of debt during a legal wrangle over her six-year-old son.

Andrew Jones, prosecuting, said she was paid income support and housing benefits on the basis she was a lone parent and had no other income.

“The money was paid directly into a bank account,” he said. “In interview she admitted she had been living with her partner and told the investigator she knew her benefits would stop if she told them about the change in circumstances, but she had a lot of debt.”

Comber admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to notify change of circumstances affecting entitlement to social security benefit and will now begin paying back the thousands of pounds she owes.

Defending the barmaid and cleaner, Geoff Playford told magistrates she had struggled financially during a problem with her former partner: “There were a lot of things going on in Miss Comber’s life at the time. Her son was effectively retained by her former partner and the result was she had to take him to court to get a civil order to get him back. She is remorseful and she accepts responsibility.”

Chairman of the Bench Andrew Backway handed Comber a 120-day prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered her to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

He said: “We accept arrangements have been made for that money to be repaid.”

He said her early guilty plea was the reason she was not going to prison. Comber was also ordered to pay a £115 victim surcharge and court costs of £85.

Source with picture