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21 Aug 2017

Aberdeen woman in £15k benefit fraud

An Aberdeen woman has been spared jail after falsely claiming £14,000 in benefits.

Thelma Watson, 51, was handed 175 hours of unpaid work by Sheriff Christine McCrossan when she appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for sentencing, having previously admitted two charges of benefit fraud.

Social security chiefs said the case showed how the department was “rooting out” benefit cheats.

Watson previously appeared in court last month and admitted claiming the cash over a period of more than two years.

She pled guilty to failing to notify DWP officials that, having previously declared she was single, she lived with her partner.

Watson claimed £2,111.32 in Jobseekers Allowance between February 5 and September 5, 2012. She also claimed £11,888.68, in Employment Support Allowance between September 6, 2012, and January 9, 2015.

Defence for Watson, Neil McRobert told the court his client had no previous convictions for dishonesty.

He said: “The background is there was a legitimate claim back in 2009, benefits were received thereafter which she was fully entitled to at that stage. She had moved in with the male referred to; that relationship became more serious. Clearly at that stage that is a change in circumstances and she should have told the DWP.”

He added: “She accepts she should have informed the DWP of a change of circumstances. She is deeply remorseful. She appreciated the power the court would have and she is aware of the disposals.”

Mr McRobert said she was “distressed” at the prospect of a custodial sentence.

Source

17 Aug 2017

Three year benefit fraud

More than £23,000 was overpaid in benefits to a Pembroke man who failed to tell the authority that he had a lodger.

Christopher Page pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly failing to notify of changes to his circumstances which could affect his entitlements to benefits when he appeared before Haverfordwest magistrates last Tuesday.

The court heard that Page had not informed Pembrokeshire County Council that a working man was living in his home, which would affect his entitlement to council tax and housing benefits.

He was overpaid a total of £23,303.19 between October 2013 and September 2016, and the bench heard that measures had already been put in place for monthly repayments.

Vaughan Pritchard-Jones, prosecuting, said: “He had to fill in various forms about who was living in the property with him. Three forms were filled in, and his answer to the question on each occasion was that no-one was living with him. It came to light that a working man was living in one of the rooms at the property, and the defendant did not notify the local authority of that.”

Jonathan Webb, defending, said: “The defendant had a male friend living with him as a flat share for a number of years and did not think that he would have to declare it. He found out subsequently that he needed to.”

The bench heard that Page, who acted as carer, was currently working at a local car breaking yard, and the situation had been reversed between tenant and lodger.

After considering a probation report, magistrates imposed a three month custodial sentence for each offence, to run consecutively, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to complete 200 hours of unpaid work, and pay a £80 surcharge plus £85 court costs.

The chairman of the bench said: “We seriously considered sending you to prison today because it was a substantial sum involved in the benefit fraud.”

Source

16 Aug 2017

Married couple in £47k benefit fraud over six years

A husband and wife motivated by greed paid for their family holidays using some of the £47,000 they falsely claimed in benefits, a court heard.

Kevin and Natasha Lambert admitted six counts of benefit fraud involving housing benefit, council tax benefit, income support and employment and support allowance.

Sentencing at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Eleri Rees said: “This was not based on need, but on greed.”

James Evans, prosecuting, said Kevin Lambert fraudulently claimed more than £26,000 and his wife more than £21,000 between 2008 and 2014. He said: “They were living together as man and wife, but claiming as if they were two separate households.”

Prosecutors said Kevin Lambert was also working as a builder while claiming benefits to which he was not entitled.

Kevin Lambert, 38, from Brynheulog in Pentwyn, Cardiff , admitted four counts of benefit fraud. Prosecutors said he had been before the courts for 11 offences, including burglary, attempted robbery and shoplifting. He also had a previous conviction for benefit fraud.

Charley Pattison, defending, said her client had paid back £775 in the last three years. She added: “He accepts that is a drop in the ocean, but for him it is a significant sum.” The defence barrister said her client was confused about the meaning of “common household” and had moved out of the family home at various points.

He was jailed for 26 weeks and ordered to pay a victim surcharge.

Judge Rees said she would distinguish between the defendants, as Natasha Lambert did not have any previous convictions.

She noted some of the money had been spent on several holidays.

Natasha Lambert, 34, admitted two counts of benefit fraud.

Ruth Smith, defending, stressed her client had no previous convictions and told the court she had so far re-paid £325. She described the couple’s relationship as “difficult” and explained they were not always living in the same property, which led to confusion about their claims.

Ms Smith described the offending as out of character and said her client, a mum-of-five, volunteered for a playgroup, showing a “social conscience”. The defence barrister acknowledged the offending crossed the custody threshold, but asked for any prison sentence to be suspended.

Natasha Lambert was sentenced to 26 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work, as well as pay a £115 victim surcharge.

Source

10 Aug 2017

Benefit fraud ran for six years

A disabled man who falsely claimed almost £77,000 in benefits took part in a 100-mile charity walk, a court heard. For six years Barry Firmager raked in income support, employment and support allowance, disability living allowance and council tax benefit he was not entitled to.

It was discovered he had failed to inform the Department of Work and Pensions and Medway Council about a change in financial circumstances - having won a £200,000 payout in 2006 for injuries in a road traffic accident. He used the money to buy a property in the UK which he rented out and also bought a house in Florida.

The 47-year-old benefit cheat, formerly of Northcote Road, Rochester, was jailed for 16 months - despite a judge hearing he had a degenerative bone disease and arthritis and looked after his father, who has dementia.

Maidstone Crown Court was also told he had been planning to get married on September 10, with the reception and Caribbean honeymoon booked.

Firmager blamed the pain and distress he was suffering as a result of his accident in 2002 for not revealing his compensation - as well as his now ex-wife who filled in the claim forms for him. While wrongfully claiming £76,743 in benefits he took part in the long cancer charity walk in memory of his late mother. He was also spotted visiting a gym.

Firmager, now living in Williton, near Taunton in Somerset, admitted four offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances.

Judge Heather Baucher told him she could not pass a suspended sentence, despite his wedding plans and the fact that alternative care would have to be found for his father. He should have given the court proceedings priority, she said, over his wedding arrangements.

“You were interviewed in 2014 about these matters and although your committal for sentence by magistrates post-dates the wedding booking, you should have had these matters at the forefront of your mind before you set about making your wedding plans,” she added.

The honeymoon was funded by Firmager’s father, whom he already owed £40,000. He also owed £45,000 on credit cards and £2,000 in relation to child tax credit.

Mary Jacobson, defending, said the Florida property had been repossessed and his UK house was sold four years ago. Firmager did not complete the full 100-mile walk, she said, as it made his medical condition worse. He attended a gym on medical advice to help his recovery from knee replacement surgery. His health had since continued to deteriorate and his fiancee received a carer’s allowance to assist him, Miss Jacobson added.

A confiscation hearing will be held at a later date.

Source with pictures

9 Aug 2017

Man fined for false homeless claim

A less usual type of social housing fraud

A Lingfield man has been ordered to pay £1,864 after he made a false claim that one of his relatives was homeless to help them get a home in Mole Valley. (h/t Tenancyfraud)

Ian Day was sentenced at Guildford Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, July 26 after he was found to have provided information to Mole Valley District Council's Housing Team which was not true. It was discovered that Day had provided information which helped a relative of his have a homeless application accepted.

The 58-year-old claimed his relative had been homeless for almost two years, when in fact he was living in a property in East Grinstead, in West Sussex.

Day had falsely maintained he was the tenant of the East Grinstead home, but after Mole Valley District Council carried out an investigation, it appeared it was his relative who was the tenant and not Day. If the correct information had been supplied, his relative would never have been registered as homeless or deemed to be in need of accommodation.

Councillor Corinna Osborne-Patterson, who is Mole Valley District Council's executive member for communities, services and housing, said: "Social housing is a limited resource, and it is important that the any offers of accommodation are made to those in genuine need. When applying for accommodation, it is important that people provide honest and truthful information. Failure to do so could be an offence and legal action may be taken.

"As shown in this case, Mole Valley District Council will take legal action against those who it believes have misled or lied in any way in relation to a housing application whether it is the applicant or those supporting them."

After the relative left the property, it was found to have sustained damage and they owed "significant rent arrears and costs".

When sentenced, Day was ordered to pay a fine of £1,320. He was also told to pay Mole Valley District Council's court costs, of £500, as well as a victim surcharge fee of £44.

Source

8 Aug 2017

Immigrant benefit thief gets trivial sentence

A benefits cheat scammed £102,000 over six years to pay for her daughters to go to a private school.

Somali-born Shukri Yusuf, 45, posed as a struggling single mum to claim income support, housing benefit and council tax cash. But investigators found she was married to bus driver Omar Tarab.

Yusuf arrived in Britain in 1999.

She carried out her con in Southall, West London, from June 2008 to April 2014 and used some of the cash to buy a car.

She was due to stand trial at Isleworth crown court but at the start of the hearing changed her plea and admitted failing to notify Ealing council of changes to her circumstances.

Judge Jonathan Perkins jailed her for six months, suspended for two years, and ordered her to complete 175 hours of community work.

Judge Perkins told her: “These crimes funded a lifestyle, big luxuries like a car and private school fees. Your husband is a bus driver and his income was never declared.”

One of the daughters is now at teacher training college and the other is finishing sixth-form studies.

Last night the Department for Work and Pensions said: “Cases like this show how hard our investigators are working. We are seeking to recover the full amount of the overpayment and, if applicable, impose confiscation orders.”

What this case does show is that you can rob taxpayers for over six years before anyone notices, and then get away with a trivial punishment.

Ealing Council refused to comment.

Source with pictures

Disabled blue badge fraud in Sheffield

Sheffield Council has warned people who fraudulently use blue parking badges that they will be taken to court. (h/t Fraudmanager)

Six people were ordered to pay more than £2,000 between them by magistrates when they appeared in court on July 11, in the second group prosecution brought by the authority.

This week the council said it hoped to bring more cases in the coming months as officers crack down on people who use the badges unlawfully.

Cabinet member for transport and infrastructure Jack Scott said: "This isn't a minor offence. Abusing another person’s blue badge to park for free simply will not be tolerated in Sheffield. I hope these convictions send a clear message that we will not put up with this at all."

Blue badges are issued to elderly or disabled people. They can also be used to park for free by parents if they are with a disabled child at the time.

Anyone caught using a badge fraudulently can face a criminal conviction and a fine of up to £1,000, plus any costs awarded by the court.

Blue badges which are found to be used fraudulently – even if they have been issued for genuine reasons – can be confiscated as a result of any successful prosecution.

Coun Scott added: “My message to people who have fallen into the habit of taking a relative’s blue badge is clear - if you take advantage of this scheme, my team will take you to court. A criminal prosecution, heavy fine and a criminal record will all follow. We won't turn a blind eye or issue warnings. We will pursue these criminals with the full force of the law. Places are reserved for genuine blue badge users because they are close to major amenities or close to schools or hospitals. Fraudulent use stops those people from accessing the facilities they need.

"It is selfish and unfair to genuinely disabled people. What’s more, a blue badge will be removed upon successful prosecution. Nobody can use a blue badge unless they are travelling with the owner. We won’t hesitate to confiscate blue badge passes where they are misused.”

More than 24,000 blue badges are in circulation in Sheffield. The majority belong to individuals.

Details of those found guilty

7 Aug 2017

Triathlete just said he was disabled and got money

A benefits cheat who won a triathlon and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro while claiming he could not walk more than 50 metres has been jailed for 20 weeks.

Mark Lloyd, of Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taff, received £6,551 in Personal Independence Payments, saying a slipped disc in his back left him in agony. At the same time, he took part in the World Powerboat Championships.

Lloyd claimed the cash between October 2014 and February 2016, but magistrates at his trial were shown photos of him competing in the HSBC triathlon in September 2015 - a race he won in the adult taster category. That month, he also took part in a five-day trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, which involved walking between eight and 12 hours a day. He also took part in the World Powerboat Championships in Malta and went skiing in the Alps.

Despite this, the court heard he claimed he needed assistance to use the lavatory, could not stand in the kitchen and took an hour to prepare a meal.

District Judge Martin Brown said Lloyd, a former paratrooper, "exaggerated grossly" his condition, while taking part in "a number of gruelling events". "You were in abuse of your position having served well in the Parachute Regiment," he said. "What you did attracted attention and you got plaudits."

He called Lloyd's claims "fanciful", saying he had "no basis" for claiming benefits.

Lloyd was medically discharged from the Army in 2011 after suffering an injury to his lower back while serving in Afghanistan. In 2014, he applied for the Personal Independence Payment - up to £141 a week for those suffering long-term ill health to help cover the costs of their care. The following year, he applied for more money, saying his condition had worsened and he would be bedridden for a day if he walked more than 164ft.

Defence solicitor James Harris said Lloyd suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his service, which was undiagnosed at the time of the offences and may have impacted on his behaviour.

The defendant works in online advertising, a form of Bitcoin mining, and said he had the equivalent of US$5,000 he could use to pay a fine. But the judge said he had "blatantly lied throughout" and sentenced him to 20 weeks in prison, of which he will serve half.

The offence put him in breach of a suspended sentence relating to a road rage incident in May 2015, the judge added. He imposed eight weeks of this, which will be served concurrently. Lloyd was also ordered to pay £620 costs and £115 victim surcharge.

Source

2 Aug 2017

Over 40% of benefit fraud prosecutions are in Greater London

London's over-40s are the people most likely to get into trouble over benefit fraud, with women more likely to be charged than men.

The last year's records of fraud defence lawyers DPP Law show that more than two thirds of cases involved people over 40. The most honest age group was 18 to 24, with just one case that went to court. The data also showed a fair split between the sexes, with women slightly ahead at 52.

The biggest hot spot for benefit fraud was Greater London, with the area accounting for around 43% of the total. Merseyside was in second place with 35%. However, in a third of cases that went to court, the person charged got off.

"Our solicitors have worked on a lot of benefit fraud cases over the years and these results highlight the broad spectrum of these types of proceedings," says Stuart Nolan, managing director of DPP Law. "Many benefit fraud cases are often the case of overpayment, which can happen without an individual's intent to defraud. We've also seen a lot of the clients we have defended found not guilty. So, in the arena of benefit fraud, there are a lot of shades of grey."

It's the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) that's in charge of benefit fraud investigations, with many staff located in local Jobcentre offices. Local authorities also carry out housing benefit and Council Tax benefit fraud investigations.

Those found guilty of benefit fraud are usually ordered to pay back the cash - and may also be hit with an extra penalty of between £350 and £5,000, as well as having their benefits cut or stopped.

Many people are caught via tip-offs on the hotline - like businesswoman Ncola Alcock earlier this year. Claiming to be living alone, she netted more than £81,000 in child tax credits and housing benefit over a period of five years. However, she'd been daft enough to post the fqact that she was married on her Barking Mad business website - and was shopped to the authorities.

And just last week, George Beacham was caught working as a binman after claiming he 'could only walk two yards in 15 minutes'.

Source

1 Aug 2017

London councils dispute poor housing benefit performance

London councils have hit back at official figures which suggest they are under-performing against the government’s expectations for reduction of overpayments in housing benefit bills. (h/t Fraudmanager)

Statistics published last week by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) record councils' performance in reducing overpayment of housing benefit. Overpayments occur where a tenant is given more benefits than they are entitled to due to fraud or an administrative error.

The statistics show for each council the amount of reductions the DWP expects to be achieved. The DWP calculates this by grouping residents according to their statistical likelihood of receiving an overpayment in benefits. The DWP then records the value of reductions actually achieved in each local authority and scores each council with a percentage. Figures for the financial year 2016/17 were released last week, revealing that London councils make up the overwhelming majority of councils who are struggling to meet expectations.

Hackney Council scored the lowest percentage (53%). There, the bill was reduced by £1.6m, compared to the government’s expectation of £3m.

Philip Glanville, mayor of Hackney, told Inside Housing:
The council has no comment to make on the validity of the DWP’s estimated reduction target, although it is of note that no English authority has achieved 100% of their estimated amount. Perhaps the DWP should be more focused, as Hackney is, on the impact that the imposed benefit freezes and cuts have had on vulnerable people, than exercises such as this.
The other nine in the bottom 10 were, from lowest to highest were Enfield, Westminster, Newham, Camden, Barnet, Brent, Wirral, Wandsworth and Islington.

A spokesperson for Westminster City Council said:
The council insists on strict verification standards before new claims are put into payment and employs determination officers to check assessments before they are processed. We believe this means less fraud and error is entering the system than would otherwise be the case, which in turn explains why the level of identified reductions is lower than the target DWP has set.