29 Jul 2015

Mother jailed for £21k benefit fraud

A benefit cheat mother-of-three has been jailed after fiddling more than £21,000 she was not entitled to receive – by keeping quiet that her soldier boyfriend lived with her.

People who "play by the rules and pay their taxes" during times of squeezed public finances had a right to expect fraudsters to be jailed, a court heard.

Siobhan Milligan, 25, of Habrough, admitted two offences of failing to notify a change in her circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefit.

Richard Sheldon, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that the offences happened over a period of about two-and-a-half years between September 2011 and February last year. She wrongly claimed a total of £8,684 in Income Support and £12,500 in housing benefit and council tax benefit. She did not declare that Simon Thomas, a soldier, had been living with her.

Ian Durant, mitigating, said that Milligan was "foolish" and "did not quite get to grips with the benefits system". She wrongly thought that, because Mr Thomas spent a lot of time at his barracks in North Yorkshire and on manoeuvres in Cyprus, she did not need to declare that they were a couple.

"She did not by any means enjoy a lavish lifestyle," said Mr Durant. "She deeply regrets her involvement in this dishonesty. She understands the severity of what she has done. She is ashamed of herself and remorseful."

Judge David Tremberg told Milligan: "The public purse is, and has been, strained severely for some years. It's essential that optimum use is made of such scarce public funds as do exist and they are they are not siphoned off into the pockets of dishonest people who are not entitled to them. This offence is so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence is appropriate for it. The public are entitled to expect that you are punished for what you have done and a sentence is imposed which should deter others."

It was important that members of the public who "play by the rules and pay their taxes" should see benefit cheats going to prison, said Judge Tremberg.

Milligan, who had no previous convictions, was jailed for 12 weeks.

Source

24 Jul 2015

Lottery winner benefit thief played the system

A lottery winner has been jailed for two years for manipulating the court systems after falsely claiming state benefits.

She had claimed £107,000 in benefits for her ‘sick’ husband while not declaring her winnings of £120,000.

She had plastic surgery and bought a plasma TV while her husband went scuba diving in Cyprus and was an extra on Coronation Street and Emmerdale.

After serving 21 months in prison for the initial benefit fraud, Lesley Brogan from Edenthorpe, Doncaster then forged letters in an attempt to fight the confiscation of criminal proceedings order launched by prosecutors.

Sentencing her at Sheffield Crown Court, Judge Peter Kelson told her: ‘You are a manipulator of court systems to the nth degree. You have tried every single conceivable avenue of escape you could find for yourself.’

The court heard that she sent a fake letter to a Social Security Appeals Tribunal in March, 2013. The letter purporting to be from a Doncaster GP said that she was not well enough to attend.

Brogan launched a series of appeals against both the criminal conviction and the confiscation order which went as far as the Court of Appeal. She failed in all the appeals.

Speaking in defence, Derek Duffy said that she adopted a ‘siege mentality’ and had fought at ‘every possible opportunity’ until two months ago.

He said: ‘She has now been persuaded to drop this campaign against the Crown and everything connected with the benefits payments.’

Judge Kelson said she had provided ‘fictitious’ letters to the tribunal and the ‘genesis’ of the case was the criminal proceedings for the benefits fraud.

He told her: ‘You embarked upon a crusade and found every obstacle you could present to hinder the proceedings. You only stopped this crusade because you realised there was simply nowhere left to go.’

Source with picture

23 Jul 2015

Benefits cheats take £900k from Sandwell Council in a year

More than 190 investigations were launched into fraud relating to benefits paid for housing and council tax in 2014/15. (h/t Dave)

Illegal subletting and not using a house as a main home were among the ways residents were found to be flouting tenancy rules.

The overpayments totalled £856,828, the council's counter fraud unit discovered.

Action was taken against 83 people caught fiddling claims forms - this ranged from formal warnings and fines to prosecution at court.

During the 12 months, 51 people were prosecuted, 13 were fined and 18 formal warnings were issued.

In addition, 21 were caught flouting the rules of the council tax reduction scheme leading to overpayments totalling £17,380.

Earlier this month convicted benefits cheat Rashpal Kaur , who made bogus claims totalling tens of thousands of pounds, was jailed for failing to pay back the money. The 47-year-old, of Europa Avenue, West Bromwich raked in excess housing and council tax benefit over six years after lying about her circumstances to Sandwell Council.

During the past 12 months more than 100 homes have been seized by Sandwell Council after tenants were caught misusing properties.

The council launched more than 200 tenancy fraud investigations during the past year and recovered a total of 115 properties.

The council said two people had been convicted of ‘right to buy’ fraud during the past year.

Figures released earlier this year showed the council is owed more than £2 million in unpaid council tax from last year. A total of 19,628 council tax accounts were not paid in full by the end of the 2014/15 financial year, the figures show.

This has left the council needing to chase £2.2m. But bosses say despite the outstanding payments, they have a high council tax collection rate in the borough.

In September, it emerged that more than 10,000 housing tenants in Sandwell owed money to the council for outstanding rent payments equalling more than £3m.

At the source site, one commenter adds:

  • As a council benefits officer, if a claimant is able to prove their entitlement to benefit they are required by law to pay it. The fraud is almost always the total fault of the claimant and to start investigating the council has to have reason. There are probably getting on for 500 claimants to each benefit officer so the odds are stacked in favour of the benefit thieves.

22 Jul 2015

Confiscation order on benefit thief at first hearing

A fraudster claimed £22,000 in housing benefit and council tax overpayments over four years.

Glennda Rhodes, of Glenmere, Vange, admitted 11 offences of knowingly failing to notify her change in circumstances contrary to the Social Security Administration Act 1992 at Basildon Magistrates Court this week.

The 61-year-old admitted failing to declare savings, additional income from a job, her occupational pension and declaring that she was living with a partner.

Magistrates sentenced her to a 12-month community order, including 100 hours of unpaid work.

She was subject to a restraint order on her bank accounts under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a confiscation order was made.

She was also ordered to pay £3,000 costs within six months.

Cllr Stuart Sullivan, cabinet member responsible for resources, said: “This is an alarming case of fraud because of the amount involved and the fact it went on for nearly four years. Basildon Council takes these cases very seriously and will vigorously pursue those who commit these crimes. We will also push for the maximum sentence to act as a deterrent to others.”

Source

20 Jul 2015

Two years to obtain compensation order

We last looked at Graham Axford back in 2013 - the legal system grinds exceedingly slow (making a mockery of claims that it can't modernise or save money).

Now here he is again. He has just been ordered to repay £35,000 within three months or go back to prison.

As we know, he was jailed in March 2013 for 16 weeks for falsely claiming £29,000 of housing and council tax benefit between 2003 and 2011.

The 60-year-old, now living in Haling Park Road, South Croydon, was living in a council flat in Belgrave Road, South Norwood at the time of his fraud but was evicted from that flat.

Axford failed to tell the council he owned a home near Newport in Wales and part-owned a farmhouse, land and holiday cottage in Normandy, France. His yacht has since been sold to pay off marina fees while it was found he owned five acres of land in South Carolina.

His fraud gained public attention in November 2011 when was the subject of a BBC Panorama investigation into benefit cheats.

The confiscation order means he must sell his assets to pay back the money he made from the criminal activity. It states he must pay back £35,166.37 in three months or face a 14 month prison sentence with interest accruing on the debt. Approximately £30,000 of this will go to the council with the remainder divided between the court and Treasury.

In his defence in the original court case he denied owning the Welsh property and had transferred the ownership of the French home to his wife. He had denied three counts of benefit fraud by false representations in the original trial.

Councillor Simon Hall, cabinet member for finance and treasury, said: "This has been a long-running case and I'd like to pay tribute to the tenacity of our investigators for bringing this to a positive conclusion. It shows that not only will we prosecute benefit cheats, but we will also investigate how much they have gained from their criminal activity, and seek to claim it back."

A long-running case? You can say that again. If it takes so much work, and so much time, to get a confiscation order against one offender, is there any wonder that the resources aren't there to investigate benefit fraud more widely?

17 Jul 2015

Mother jailed for £16k benefit fraud

A young mother has been jailed for benefit fraud – after claiming she lived alone with her baby.

Lisa Clare Davies, 26, made claims for Income Support, Housing Benefit, and Jobseeker's Allowance totalling more than £16,000. She failed to mention that she was in fact living with her partner, who at the time was working.

The defendant, from Maryport, entered guilty pleas to three offences, representing the three benefits, and was jailed by magistrates for 12 weeks.

The court, in Workington, was told how the claim she made for those benefits in both April and July 2012 was fraudulent from the outset. This was because the defendant failed to declare that she was living with a working partner at the time.

Officials from the DWP discovered that she was living with her partner, a mechanic called Jamie Robertson, from shortly after the birth of her child. But she failed to declare this on any of her claim forms, the court heard.

Despite the evidence that he was living with her which was gathered by DWP investigators, she claimed their relationship had been “off and on” – although she admitted they had lived together even before her claim was lodged.

In total, the overpayment of benefits came to more than £16,000, and included overpayment of Income Support totalling £6,733; and an overpayment of Housing Benefit of £7,524.

Passing sentence, magistrates remarked that the defendant’s claim was dishonest from the start and persisted over a long period. The jail term was reduced, however, because of Davies’ guilty pleas.

Source

16 Jul 2015

Benefit thief goes to prison

A 'brazen' fraudster has been jailed for money laundering and illegally claiming nearly £28,000 in benefits.

Salih Ozbay, 37, of College Road, Walthamstow was sentenced to a year in prison after being found guilty of four charges including three benefit fraud offences and one money laundering offence at Waltham Forest Magistrates Court.

Waltham Forest council investigators discovered that between March 2008 and July 2012 Mr Ozbay received £26,000 in housing benefits and nearly £2,000 in council tax benefits that he was not entitled to.

The landlord had failed to declare that he was the owner of four properties for which he received a rental income, that he received student loans and grants and was the company secretary at two businesses.

The properties Mr Ozbay claimed benefits on were owned by his brother’s wife, which he also failed to declare.

During the period of receiving illegal benefits, Mr Ozbay unsuccessfully applied for discretionary housing payments, claiming that he was suffering severe financial hardship, and needed additional funds.

Mr Ozbay was sentenced to a year in custody for each charge to be served concurrently.

In sentencing at Snaresbrook Crown Court, Judge Hammerton described Mr Ozbay's actions as a, “brazen attempt to obtain benefits to which you were not entitled.”

A confiscation hearing will be held on November 6 2015.

Source

14 Jul 2015

Wolverhampton benefits cheats steal over £1m in a year

There were well over 1,500 cases of benefits fraud in Wolverhampton, in which cheats stole more than £1 million from the public purse, over the last financial year.

A report to the city council’s audit committee reveals there were 1,726 individual cases of fraud – a figure that far eclipses the yearly average for other councils in the country.

The average number of benefits fraud cases nationally is estimated to be 539, with a financial value of £853,072.

In Wolverhampton a total of £1,164,525 was taken in 2013/14.

Council bosses say the high figure illustrates the authority’s commitment to clamping down on benefits cheats.

By far the most common type of deception in the city was council tax discount fraud, with 1,507 cases creating a loss of £459,365.

Housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud was uncovered 177 times and accounted for £586,180 of the total.

Other types of fraud committed over the last year included ‘right to buy fraud’, of which three cases were identified, and procurement, of which one instance was found.

Despite Wolverhampton council experiencing such a high incidence of benefits fraud, there was some good news.

There were no cases of insurance or social care fraud found, despite them costing other local authorities a combined total of £1,738,962 last year.

Other councils also lost a total of £662,369 through internal fraud cases, while Wolverhampton council lost just £36,897.

There were also no cases of disabled parking fraud in Wolverhampton, compared to an average of 28 cases across other district councils.

Source

Of course these figures only cover fraud that was detected.

10 Jul 2015

A reader writes

I recently wrote about why benefit fraud is unpoliceable.

A reader has commented there:
In my authority The Housing Benefit Review means random cases are visited to see if the circumstances match their claim details. There is no investigation as such. The visits are unannounced. I have never seen one which queries very low self employment earnings (and I've seen a window cleaner declaring £6.00 per week profit). So its a token effort.

Other people working in benefits have all commented that fraud is a lot higher than official figures.

Risk Based Review means high risk cases are checked after 3 months and bank statements are requested but that's only declared bank accounts and I see a lot of people being paid in cash.
It's a token effort indeed. They don't want to rock the boat by "discovering" that benefit fraud is several times the official totals.

Do senior officials know they are conniving in a cover-up?

Of course they do.

8 Jul 2015

This is wrong - is there benefit fraud?

A leader of the terror group behind the Tunisian beach massacre is living off benefits in Britain, the Mail can reveal.

Jihadi preacher Hani al-Sibai – who described the 7/7 terror attacks in London in 2005 as a ‘great victory’ – is one of the ‘key influencers’ of the Islamic fanatics believed to have recruited and trained gunman Seifeddine Rezgui.

But he is living on £50,000 a year in handouts with his wife and five children in a £1 million house in West London, after using human rights laws to thwart attempts to deport him for more than 15 years.

Days after the atrocity in Tunisia, the Mail found al-Sibai, 54, strolling in the sunshine outside his home. Asked how he could justify milking the welfare state for so much, al-Sibai – who is under investigation suspected of benefit fraud – said: ‘Ask David Cameron, don’t ask me.’

Last night, there were furious calls to deport al-Sibai, who has also been linked to Islamic State executioner Mohammed Emwazi, known as Jihadi John.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the home affairs select committee, is writing to Home Secretary Theresa May to demand an explanation as to why al-Sibai is still in the country. ‘It is extraordinary that successive governments have been trying but failing to remove someone who has these worrying links,’ he said. ‘The way he has foiled attempts to remove him are a cause for enormous concern.’

Tory MP Peter Bone added: ‘This is the sort of thing that drives my constituents mad. I expect the Home Secretary to deal with this urgently. There is a very strong case for him to be deported. He needs to be dealt with.’

The Mail last week revealed the links between the beach massacre in Tunisia and Islamic extremism in Britain.

Tunisian terror group Ansar al-Sharia – which authorities believe to have recruited and trained Rezgui – was founded and is run by extremist Saifallah Ben Hassine, who became a disciple of hate preacher Abu Qatada in London in the late 1990s.

Ben Hassine, who is said to have plotted the beach massacre from his base in Libya, is also believed to have had a key role in the plotting of 9/11.

Al-Sibai is a close associate of the group. He is cited at length in a 2013 report by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism in The Hague, and is described as one of Ansar al-Sharia’s ‘key influencers’.

He is also noted for his connection to Ben Hassine, also known as Abu Iyad. ‘Al-Sibai’s involvement in international jihadism runs long and deep,’ the report states. ‘Al-Sibai has maintained his loyalty to Abu Iyad over the years. When Ansar al-Sharia held its Kairouan conference in May 2012, al-Sibai was one of several foreign scholars to address the audience by video.’

Al-Sibai and his family live in a three-storey, four-bedroom home in Ravenscourt Park. The rent for the housing association home is covered by the taxpayer. He parks his Toyota Corolla Verso – which cost £16,995 – in a dedicated disabled spot outside his house.

Al-Sibai and his wife are estimated to be on benefits of more than £48,000 a year – almost double the cap of £26,000. They are able to defy the limit because both are entitled to disability living allowance. Al-Sibai has also used public money to fund a series of legal cases against the Government to stop him being deported and to have his name removed from terrorist sanction lists.

Al-Sibai, who has written about ‘celebrating the anniversary of the martyrdom of Sheikh Osama bin Laden’, was last night under investigation on suspicion of benefit fraud.

The Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘People who commit, plan and support acts of terror will be prosecuted and anyone who has been deported or sent to prison will lose their benefits.’

The Home Office said: ‘We do not routinely comment on individual cases.’