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29 Apr 2016

Jail for repeat benefit fraud

A benefits cheat who fraudulently claimed more than £100,000 said he was "virtually unable to walk" when he had a full-time job. (h/t Dave)

Stanley Murray, 56, who successfully appealed to have his disability benefits increased, also claimed he was "unable to prepare a cooked meal". But as well as holding down his day job, "preparing and hanging" doors on vehicles, he also worked as a guitarist in the evenings.

Murray claimed a total of £112,078.18 in disability living allowance, income support, and housing and council tax benefits in a seven-year fraud.

Jailing him for a year at Hull Crown Court, Recorder Darren Preston told him:
That is a very large amount of public money that you took, and in these times of public austerity, honest and decent taxpayers are entitled to believe, or at least hope, that their taxes are going to essential public services, or to people who desperately need it and can't work, not to line your trousers and go into your pockets when you are perfectly capable of work.
Murray, who admitted four counts of failing to notify a change in his circumstances, and one of making a false representation, committed the offences between March 10, 2008, and June 22, last year.

Prosecutor Stephen Robinson said when Murray appealed to get a higher rate of disability benefit, he said he was "virtually unable to walk", and was "unable to prepare a cooked meal for one person". Five days after receiving the increased benefit, he started a full-time job at Paneltex Ltd. Mr Robinson said it was "a physical job to a certain extent".

When arrested and interviewed by police, Murray, who suffered a brain aneurysm more than ten years ago, said he "wanted to save money for his family as he thought he would die at any moment, and wanted them to have money for his funeral and other bills. He said he couldn't cook a meal because he didn't know how to cook," Mr Robinson said.

Murray, of Crayford Close, east Hull, was jailed for 12 months in the 1990s for obtaining property by deception and false accounting, which related to benefits fraud. He also received an "administrative penalty" when he had "worked briefly with a band as a guitarist", but this was not a criminal conviction, the court heard.

You'd think this might have put the benefits administration on enquiry. But evidently no.

Ian Brook, for Murray, said he played the guitar with his son for "therapy". Murray had decided to take the Paneltex job after attending a back-to-work interview.

He told the judge: "In my submission, many people would have said, 'I'm not going back to work. I'm going to stay at home holding out my hand and take money from the state'. He did seek to be a contributing member of society."

The judge said: "Most people would have gone back to work and told the authorities."

Mr Brook said Murray was remorseful and was "truly sorry for his family" as he had brought shame on them. The amount the authorities were seeking to recover was £103,000, but he did not seek an adjournment to contest the prosecution's figures.

Murray had so far repaid £421.13, the court heard.

Source

28 Apr 2016

Recidivist benefit thief rightly jailed

A cunning mum-of-two stole the identity of a friend and used it to carry out a 10-year benefit fraud. (h/t Dave)

On the surface, the 53-year-old claimed to live a chaotic lifestyle...but secretly the woman who boasted two A levels was carrying out a sophisticated scam.

And even when pink-haired Anne Brearley, 53, was caught out, she refused to accept she was a crook.

However, a judge told Brearley, from Westgate-on-sea that she was a “cunning and imaginative” fraudster.

And Recorder George Pulman QC jailed her for 20 months after revealing that when police raided her home they discovered store cards in three different names.

Canterbury Crown Court heard how she used the name and identity documents of a friend who moved to Ireland to defraud Thanet District Council, the Department of Works and Pensions and HMRC.

She pocketed a total of more than £61,000 in Jobseekers Allowance, housing benefits and child tax allowances.

Prosecutor Andrew Espley said the frauds began in March 2003....while she was under a 12-month conditional discharge sentence for an identical offence:

“This is a very serious case. It was almost immediately she went on to commit these further offences which were sophisticated. She stole as much as she could get her hands on for quite a long period of time".

The court heard how Brearley, who has previous convictions for theft and benefit fraud, also claimed benefits for two children who didn’t live at her home.

Kieran Brand, defending, said she was a single mother, moving from area to area and struggling to cope.

“This money wasn’t spent on fast cars. She just wanted to provide for her teenage son. She also suffers from depression and anxiety.” He asked the judge to suspend any jail sentence after saying she was now motivated to keep her life in order.

The judge said he rejected her claim to have lived a chaotic lifestyle telling her she had been “highly organised and calculating”:
You have quite deliberately deceived the benefits agency, obtained bank accounts, given false details. When you want money from the state you fabricate documents with such care.

You have demonstrated extensive skills and cunning in fabricating these claims.

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27 Apr 2016

Blue badge fraud takes ages to get to court

A builder’s financial problems were worsened when he was fined for using a photocopy of his father’s disabled parking permit to avoid having to feed the meter while he worked in central Croydon. (h/t Dave)

Adam Mansfield, from Rainham, Essex, admitted the charge at Croydon Magistrates’ Court on 19 April, and was fined £150 and ordered to pay £200 prosecution costs.

The court was told that, on 27 July last year, a council civil enforcement officer spotted a car, parked in Bedford Place, displaying what appeared to be a photocopy of a blue badge parking permit. A penalty charge notice was issued and the car impounded.

When collecting the vehicle, Mansfield said the badge was valid and that he had been driving his father, who was the registered holder.

Officers of the council’s fraud team spoke to Mansfield’s father, who said he had not been with the defendant at the time of the offence. In a subsequent interview, Mansfield admitted to the investigators that he had photocopied his father’s permit and had obtained a blue-badge clock from a friend.

When questioned about his actions, he stated that he was experiencing financial hardship and, while working in the vicinity of Bedford Place, had used the permit to avoid parking fees.

Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said:
Here’s a case that shows that crime definitely doesn’t pay.

This man fraudulently used a blue-badge parking permit with the express intention of saving a few pounds in parking fees. That small saving has now cost him £350 in fines and costs – and, more seriously, earned him a criminal record.

Blue badges are issued to motorists with a genuine need but, sadly, there are other motorists keen to try to take advantage of the benefits for their own selfish ends. They might get away with it one, two, three times, but they will eventually be caught, and when they are, they will be prosecuted and pay the price, both financially and reputationally.

26 Apr 2016

Benefit thief mother avoids jail

An Ingleby Barwick mum has narrowly escaped jail after fraudulently claiming more than £33,000 in benefits.

Teesside Crown Court heard how Sarah Linkse applied for tax credits she was not entitled to for around four years “on the basis that she was was single and on a low wage”, despite actually living with her partner.

The total payments made to Linksey, a mum-of-one and with another child “on the way”, was £33,575, between November 2010 and January 2015.

She had earlier admitted to two charges - one of being knowingly concerned in fraudulent activity with a view to obtaining tax credit, and another of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain a benefit.

The court heard that Linksey was facing a jail term as the amount fraudulently claimed was more than £30,000.

Alex Bousfield, defending, said Linksey was previously of good character. He added: “She is clearly very anxious about what’s happened. She no longer is in receipt of benefits. She has one child and another on the way. She has learned her lesson and is very remorseful about what’s happened.”

Judge Howard Crowson told Linksey: “Benefit fraud costs everyone, which is why it’s taken so seriously.”

However, he acknowledged that she had a child to take care of, and another on the way, and said he could see no real benefit to an immediate jail sentence.

He gave Linksey a 36-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to attend 10 days of a rehabilitation activity.

Source

What actual punishment did she get? Do we get our money back?

21 Apr 2016

Angus Council reports recovering £350k

Angus Council has delivered a blow to council tax and benefits cheats which has seen £368,000 of recoverable cash identified and a clutch of council homes seized back.

The authority’s Counter Fraud Team (CFT) underwent major change last year when responsibility for investigating allegations of housing benefit fraud in Angus transferred to the Department for Work and Pensions.

However, the council team continues to identify benefit overpayments and other corporate fraud work remains the responsibility of the council.

Investigators have made effective use of techniques such as data matching to link single person council tax discounts to the electoral roll and the council’s education database.

The council’s scrutiny and audit committee welcomed a report detailing the success of the recovery initiatives which revealed a breakdown of £181,308 of identified housing/council tax benefit overpayments and £79,640 DWP administered benefits overpayments.

The remainder of the recovered total related to payments including single person discounts.

The document also highlighted tenancy fraud, describing it as one of the most significant areas of fraud committed against local authorities. It can include unlawful subletting, failure to use a property as a principal home or using false information to gain a council tenancy. A joint approach involving counter fraud staff and housing colleagues has seen four council properties recovered and two tenancy successions denied.

Governance and consultancy service manager Janine Wilson told councillors: “The team went through a fairly substantial change but all in all it has been a very successful year.”

However, report author Janet Hutchison warned: “In the forthcoming year, the risk of the council being subject to fraud and corruption is not likely to reduce. To ensure that the council maintains its strong counter fraud arrangements, the CFT will continue to carry out data matching exercises to identify fraud and error; publicise, promote and enforce the counter fraud and corruption strategy and framework; continue to develop joint working arrangements with colleagues in housing and will liaise with other local authorities in areas of best practice.”

Scrutiny and audit convener, Councillor Bob Spink said: “Recovering in excess of £360,000 is a very credible achievement and this is good news for the council.”

Source

15 Apr 2016

£18k benefit thief will have to sell home

A benefit cheat who was caught playing bowls and being a greenkeeper when he claimed he was unable to walk will have to sell his house to pay off an £18,000 legal bill, a court heard. (h/t Dave)

John Larder, from Huncoat, received £18,646 in disability living allowance over a five-year period from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) after claiming he could only walk eight yards and needed help getting dressed, bathing and ‘cutting up his meat’.

A surveillance operation caught the 63-year-old playing bowls at Burnley Road Bowling Club in Accrington and also ‘pushing a trolley’ at Aldi.

Larder pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances affecting his entitlement to disability living allowance and was previously given a 20-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.

He has now been ordered to pay back £18,179.07 in three months or face 10 weeks in prison following a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Burnley Crown Court.

Steven Wild, prosecuting, told the court that the figure takes into account some money he has already paid back.

Robert Elias, defending, said Larder was a man of previous good character and he ‘has an element of sympathy for him’. He told the court: “He had cancer and is in remission. He had done his hobby of cutting the grass at his bowling club and playing bowls. He got dobbed in by someone who thought therefore he shouldn’t be claiming. The consequence of that is he and his wife are going to have to sell their home. He has still got the cancer and is slightly better now than he was. He is now properly receiving benefits. He is going to have to put his house on the market and sell it as that is his asset. Whether one can do that successfully in three months is unlikely in truth, even with the best will in the world. He is doing up the spare bedroom at present before he puts it on the market. He knows he has to sell it and hopefully it will go quickly. Realistically he should be able to sell it in six months.”

Judge Beverley Lunt said if Larder hasn’t sold his house and paid off the legal bill by July then he could apply the court to extend the period a further three months.

Source, with short video

12 Apr 2016

Short jail sentences for benefit fraud organised crimes

Accountant Chowdhury Muyeed, 52, of Horns Road, Newbury Park, was sentenced to five and half years imprisonment after he was convicted of conspiring to dishonestly produce documentation relating to social security. (h/t Dave) Background here

His wife Asma Khanom, 47, also of Horns Road, was jailed for three and a half years after being found guilty of dishonestly producing documentation, but not guilty of conspiring to do so.

The third defendant Habibur Rahman, 36, of Arbury Road, Mile End, was sentenced to three years and three months imprisonment after he was acquitted of the conspiracy charge, but convicted of the same crime as Khanom.

They ran “bogus” businesses and charities, which would provide fake employment details for Italians of Bangladeshi origin to claim benefits.

The 139 claimants – 28 of which have been convicted – were given documents to prove they were working part time, so they could qualify for housing benefit.

They were able to claim £578,000 worth of housing benefit from the Redbridge Council and more than £600,000 from Tower Hamlets Council.

Muyeed and Khanom were responsible arranging £692,927 worth of benefits from both local authorities. Rahman was responsible for arranging £187,290 in benefits, also from the two councils.

Judge Nigel Peters OC added: “In total, some £1.5m worth of benefits attributable to this investigation have been obtained, so others not traceable to you have been fraudulent.”

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) was also duped out of £420,000.

Edward McKiernan mitigating for Muyeed, who was in the process of becoming a qualified accountant in the UK, said: “That profession will no longer be available to him.”

He added: “He’s lost his good character.”

Dale Beeson for mum-of-three Khanom, who graduated with a masters degree in Bangladesh, said: “There’s limited evidence to suggest Mrs Khanom was running the show. She accepts that she fulfilled certain roles. My submission is that it’s not of high culpability, she was performing limited functions under direction. In relation to the children in the family [please] balance the effects of losing both parents.”

Alexander Taylor-Camara for Rahman said: “It does have a traumatic affect when one is the main breadwinner in the household. They [his family] have been affected significantly. He’s a man of good character, who had been here for 14 years, an educated man, and really has lost that and the ability to pursue a proper career.”

In his closing statements, Mr Peters said the three had been convicted of “a most blatant assault” on the UK benefits system:
If someone makes a false benefits claim, that person who might go to prison even for a first offence creates in effect a greater burden on the system, hurts taxpayers and local authority council tax payers.

In short, you were responsible for arranging and facilitating a large number of people who otherwise would have had no involvement in this country – or indeed fraud – by claiming false housing benefit.
He said the fraud would have gone “unabated” if it was not for the arrests made in May, last year.

The judge commended Redbridge Council for its investigations before Khanom waved to the public gallery as she was taken away with the two men.

Source

8 Apr 2016

Another prison sentence for benefit fraud

A pensioner who dishonestly claimed £32,000 in benefits over a four-year period has been sent to prison.

William Pearson, 68, was jailed for six months over the deception after a court heard how he lied to authorities about his wife’s employment status in order to claim pension credits.

Leeds Crown Court heard Pearson retired in 2009 after being made redundant from his job in the construction industry.

He told the Department of Work and Pensions that he was married and received no other form of income other than his wife’s claim for Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Michael Jowett, prosecuting, said Pearson’s wife began working for a catering company in 2010 but he failed to declare it to the DWP.

Pearson continued to claim the money despite regularly receiving leaflets from the DWP informing him that he must notify them of any change in his circumstances which may affect his entitlement to benefits.

He was interviewed after the offences came to light in December 2014 and initially claimed that his wife did not have a job. He then claimed he thought he was entitled to the money on an unconditional basis.

Pearson pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change in circumstances affecting the entitlement to social security benefit.

Anne-Marie Hutton, mitigating, said Pearson had worked hard all his life until being made redundant and had no previous convictions.

Miss Hutton said Pearson was sorry for what he had done and was in poor health as he suffered from heart and lung problems. He did not have any debts and was now repaying the money he illegally claimed.

Judge Tom Bayliss, QC, told Pearson:
You engaged in a persistent fraud against the Department of Work and Pensions. It was not a moment’s thoughtlessness. It was deliberate dishonesty over a period of four years and it netted you a significant amount of money to which you were not entitled. I take into account your previous good character and that you were a hard working man and are voluntarily making repayments. But those like you who cheat the benefits system out of considerable amounts of money over a considerable period of time must be deterred.
Source

7 Apr 2016

Benefit fraud judgement sends clear message

An Angus mother-of-three who fraudulently claimed £30,000 in benefits in three years has been jailed for ten months.

Zowie Tervet told the Department for Work and Pensions and Aberdeenshire council she was an unemployed single mother living alone. But a court heard she was living with her then partner, and now husband, Mark Tervet, who was in employment.

A sheriff said the fraud had been "easy to commit and expensive to detect."

It emerged that the couple were sharing joint bank accounts and that was where Mr Tervet's wages were paid into to support the family.

Depute fiscal Joanne Smith told Forfar Sheriff Court: "During reviews and when she updated other information such as her address she maintained that she was a single mother. When a DWP officer went to her home and interviewed her she claimed Mr Tervet was to move into her house later that month, in October 2013. She claimed not to be aware that his wages were paid into their joint account."

Tervet, 33, from Montrose, admitted two charges under the Social Security Administration Act. The offences were committed at addresses in St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire, and Montrose, Angus.

Defence solicitor Nick Markowski said: "This was not done to fund a lavish lifestyle. It was done to make ends meet, and sometimes they did not. She made a mistake and understands her liberty is at risk today."

Sheriff Gregor Murray said:
The appeal court has determined that in the absence of quite exceptional circumstances any gain of over £20,000 ought to attract a custodial sentence. There are no such circumstances in this case, there were three years of gain.

These crimes are easy to commit and expensive to detect.

You are otherwise a law abiding citizen, a capable mother and wife, but there has to be a deterrent.
Source

4 Apr 2016

£100,000 benefit cheat told to pay back all the cash

A benefit cheat has been ordered to pay back £130,000 for a 12-year con.

Alan Littleboy was convicted of taking £101,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions despite owning two homes. He inherited his father’s home in Selsey in 2000 but failed to notify the department – and continued to claim benefits. Now a judge has told him to pay back the cash plus extra.

James Dennison, prosecuting, said the benefit figure amounted to much more than the £101,000. But Bridget O’Hagan, defending, said Littleboy understood he would only have to pay back what was fraudulently taken.

At Portsmouth Crown Court, Judge Linda Sullivan QC ordered the 58-year-old to pay back £130,000 within 14 days.

Littleboy, previously of Longfield Avenue, Fareham, pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly making false statements to obtain benefit at an earlier hearing.

Speaking on Friday, Ms O’Hagan said: ‘He was going to sell the property he was living in and renovate the uninhabitable one. We’ve already paid back the council tax benefit. The property he was intending to sell completed yesterday.’

Littleboy claimed income support in 1998 and it later transferred to Employment Support Allowance. He also claimed council tax benefit.

In January the court heard Littleboy claimed £66,655 of income support for 500 weeks, £21,607 of ESA for 147 weeks and £12,827 of council tax benefit between 2002 and 2014.

The house had been under a different surname to his own, but that had been a mistake made by lawyers handling the inheritance, his defence said.

Councillor Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, previously described the fraud as ‘eye-watering’ and said he was pleased to see justice being done.

Littleboy saw the home he inherited from his father as an ‘emotional shrine’ as opposed to a capital asset, the court was previously told. Ms O’Hagan told the court: ‘It’s clear to me that he doesn’t view the bungalow as a capital asset. It was uninhabitable when he inherited it and was for some time. To him it’s something like an emotional shrine.’

He was sentenced to a 20-month prison sentence suspended for two years with a three-month 6pm-6am curfew with electronic tag. The court heard he had ‘limited understanding’ of the consequences of his actions.

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