19 Mar 2018

Deterrent sentence for illegal subletting

A housing officer who illegally sublet a council property she had never lived in has been jailed. (h/t tenancyfraud)

Julie Miah was handed a 12-month prison term and ordered to pay £17,000 in compensation after admitting she had never lived in the two-bed council property in East Finchley.

Harrow Crown Court was told how Miah was first given the keys to the council property in Prospect Ring in 2007 and immediately sublet it to a family member, while she moved into a house in Luton she had inherited.

Miah carried on the deception for 10 years until Barnet Council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT) launched an investigation in April last year after receiving a tip off suggesting the person living in the Barnet property was somebody else.

Counter-fraud investigators linked her to an address in Luton after piecing together a series of financial records which showed Miah had never lived in the property.

When interviewed under caution by counter-fraud officers, she admitted she had never lived in the flat and immediately agreed to hand back the keys.

Sentencing Miah at Harrow Crown Court on February 9, Judge Hall accepted the deception was the result of a great deal of planning by the 45-year-old, and that the nature of her work would have meant she was aware that her actions were dishonest.

Miah, who worked as a housing officer for Central Bedfordshire Council, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud by failing to disclose information. In addition to the £17,000 she must pay in compensation, she was also ordered to pay £3,174 in costs.

Leader of Barnet Council, Cllr Richard Cornelius, said: “At a time of significant housing pressures, it is totally unacceptable for someone to abuse the system in this way for so long, without ever having any intention of living in the property.

“Council homes are there for people in genuine need of housing, not for personal gain.

“I hope the custodial sentence and order for compensation handed down by the court in this case, sends out a very clear message about the consequences for anyone who might be contemplating something similar,” he added.


18 Mar 2018

Tax fraudster in HMRC jailed

A father of three who committed an “appalling” £40,000 benefit fraud while working as a tax adviser in an HMRC contact centre in Bradford has been jailed for 20 months.

Amjad Khan, 37, evaded paying the correct amount of income tax for 13 years between 2002 and 2015, also claiming tax credits he was not entitled to between 2006 and 2015.

Prosecutor Howard Shaw told Bradford Crown Court that between December 2004 and June 2014, Khan worked with HMRC to advise people on the PAYE and self-assessment tax systems. Throughout his time in that role, he owned property which he rented out, and also started his own business as a gas and heating engineer in 2012.

Mr Shaw said that on analysing Khan’s bank accounts, it was discovered he had failed to declare any income from his properties or self-employment aside from in the 2014/15 financial year, in which he claimed to have made a loss. The records showed that he had actually made a profit each year.

After the figures had been examined by a forensic accountant, all parties in the case agreed that Khan had received £23,309 in tax credits that he was not eligible to receive.

Mr Shaw said that the prosecution found that Khan avoided paying £18,554 in income tax, with Emma Downing, defending, putting the figure at £15,791.

A hearing under The Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup the money was scheduled for September.

Mr Shaw said: “This is a case involving significant abuse of a position of trust and responsibility. The defendant worked as an adviser for the revenue. He was advising on tax matters and engaged in two tax frauds. This was fraudulent activity over a long period of time.”

Khan, from Bradford, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud.

Miss Downing said her client had lost his “good character” as a result of his offending, adding that any confiscation proceedings could put his business and family home “in jeopardy.”

She said her client’s offending was “completely out of character”, but the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC, said Khan’s “very blatant” actions were a “two-pronged attack upon the revenue.”

He told Khan: “Throughout all the years you were working for HMRC, advising people of the rights and wrongs and the very nature of the tax system, you yourself were committing fraud against the state. The position you were occupying, the lies you were telling, it must fall into the higher culpability range.

“You have committed quite appalling and blatant frauds in a very determined and persistent way. The public would be outraged if the court did not deal with you in this robust way.”


15 Mar 2018

Council tax reduction fraudulently claimed

A woman who fraudulently claimed more than £3,500 in benefit she was not entitled to has been sentenced to a 12-month community order.

64-year-old Anne McCrossan, from Brompton-on-Swale, had been claiming council tax reduction from Richmondshire District Council for a number of years.

But an investigation into her claim – conducted by Veritau, the council’s fraud investigation service – found that she and her husband held capital that was not disclosed, and that her claim was fraudulent.

During the course of the investigation Mrs McCrossan admitted that both she and her husband had received inheritance payments that she hadn’t declared to the council.

As a result of her fraudulent activity Mrs Mccrossan was awarded £3,507.36 in council tax reduction which she was not entitled to.

Mrs McCrossan pleaded guilty to all charges at Northallerton Magistrates Court and was sentenced to 12 month community order with a requirement to complete 60 hours of unpaid work.

She was also ordered to pay £463.40 costs and an £85 victim surcharge.

Councillor Ian Threlfall, deputy leader of Richmondshire District Council, said: “Fraud against the council deprives the council of much needed funding to support local services. This is not a victimless crime – it affects our entire community.”


14 Mar 2018

Suspended sentence for £80k over-claim

A woman's “creditable” character helped save her from prison for a £80,000, 12-year benefit fraud.

A Teesside judge said it was “a terribly sad thing” to see 62-year-old Gillian Edwards in the dock for the first time in her life.

He said he would not jail the education worker, who has paid back all the money she wrongly took from the public purse for over a decade.

She inadvertently landed herself in trouble by telling the truth to the authorities, then had the court case hanging over her head for years, Teesside Crown Court heard today.

She started claiming benefits genuinely as a widow with three children, but did not declare she had started living with a new partner.

She was overpaid £80,954 by the Department for Work and Pensions in widowed mother’s allowance and widow’s pension between November 2002 and October 2014.

Edwards ended her claim with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in 2014 when she declared she bought a house with her partner.

The information she gave herself kick-started an investigation which took four years to come to court.

Prosecutor Jon Harley said: “The Crown are glad to confirm that she has repaid all of the overpayment."

Edwards, from Stockton , admitted two counts of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances affecting benefits.

She explained she did not regard her and her partner as formally together until they bought a house.

She had never been in trouble before the two offences, for which she faced a possible jail term of up to two-and-a-half years.

Alex Bousfield, defending, said Edwards had held down a job providing support for people with special needs, and came to court with a bundle of references.

He said: “Clearly a lot of people have thought a lot of her over the years. She’s done a lot of good work for a lot of people, and is not inherently a nasty or vindictive or problematic person in any way. She has done everything she can to put matters right.

“It’s an enormous sum of money to find in a short period of time. It’s not been possible without the help of her partner, who has been able to put those funds in place. Had the department known of the situation, there may have been money due to her.

“It’s not that she’s been caught out. She has informed the department that the relationship has been completely formalised financially. She told them and they’ve carried out an investigation. It was in the past so far as she was concerned. It’s been all-encompassing. It’s caused enormous anxiety.”

The judge, Recorder Euan Duff QC, told Edwards she started her claims legitimately but ended up defrauding the public purse.

Apart from this huge blemish on her character, he said, “You’ve quite clearly led a perfectly respectable proper life doing very good work for other people. What is hugely significant in this case is that the totality of the public money paid to you has been repaid. Ultimately the public have got back the money which they ought not to have been deprived of in the first place. I tell you straight away you are not going immediately to prison today.”

He gave Edwards an eight-month jail term suspended for 18 months.

He added: “I’m perfectly sure that you will resume the creditable life which you’ve led. I’m perfectly sure you’ll not be back again.”


13 Mar 2018

Benefit fraud sentence deferred

An Angus woman who obtained £25,000 in benefits after forgetting to tell the authorities she was married has been given six months to stay out of jail by making a sizeable dent in paying back the money.

Donna Taylor was in an on-off relationship with her ex, but when the pair eventually tied the knot the Montrose 42-year-old continued to claim working and child tax credits by declaring she was a single parent.

Taylor, from Brechin, previously admitted obtaining the five-figure sum between January 2012 and November 2015 at an address in the town’s Southesk Street.

She had been warned by a sheriff that custody was the likely outcome given sentencing guidelines in cases involving such a significant sum.

Defence solicitor Nick Markowski told Forfar Sheriff Court the accused had already paid some of the money back directly –around £1,500 – and was hopeful that her father may be able to provide around £15,000.

“She is keen to get this matter behind her, but the major part of the equation is the repayment,” he told the court.

“She was in an on-off relationship with her former partner during that period. They would have an argument and he would head off for five or six weeks at a time to his parents’ address. The longest period he was out of the house was five or six months, but most of the time it was for a number of weeks.

“She didn’t have any faith in the relationship but they got married and it was not reported to the authorities,” added Mr Markowski. “Her lack of faith in the marriage was unfortunately well-founded – the parties separated and they are now divorced.”

He told the court Taylor had lost her job with Tayside Contracts as a result of the court proceedings.

“She understands that, given the level involved, her liberty is at risk, but she has not got any record.”

He said Taylor had also been served with a Proceeds of Crime notice which would look to seize realisable assets.

“That may be looking at the property where they were living, which was in joint names but was transferred to her husband’s name in the divorce so the Crown office may have missed the boat in that regard,” added Mr Markowski.

Sheriff Jillian Martin-Brown deferred sentence on Taylor until September for her to be of good behaviour and an update on the repayment position. A Proceeds of Crime hearing was scheduled for next month.


12 Mar 2018

Jail for £65k benefit fraudster after slow investigation

A man who claimed he was so incapacitated he couldn’t put his own socks on was in fact working as a builder and kitchen fitter, a court has heard.

Over a period of six years Keith Webster fraudulently claimed more than £65,000 in benefits, including disability living allowance and income support.

Swansea Crown Court heard that at one stage Webster had more than £60,000 in savings in the bank, and was working as a handyman and second-hand car dealer while still claiming benefits.

Sending him to prison, a judge told the 59-year-old that in the current difficult economic times, the welfare system was there for people who genuinely needed help.

Eugene Egan, prosecuting, said that over the course of six years Webster claimed council tax and housing benefit, employment support allowance, income support and disability living allowance totalling some £65,424.88.

The claims were made on the basis that he was unable to work, had little in the way of savings, and needed help with day-to-day chores such as cleaning and shopping.

The court heard he claimed he could not walk more than 40 yards due to his physical ailments, and was not able to put his own socks on.

However, an undercover surveillance team for the Department of Work and Pensions caught him on camera actually running his own home-improvement business, KW Installations, and working as a handyman and builder.

The footage was from April 2016 - nearly two years ago.

When interviewed under caution by investigators, he admitted the scam, saying he was “bang to rights”.

The prosecutor said bank records subsequently showed Webster regularly had savings “well over” the £16,000 benefit claim limit, and on occasions his capital was in excess of £60,000.

Webster, from Waunarlwydd, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to six counts of dishonestly failing to notify the authorities about a change of circumstance when he appeared in the dock for sentencing.

Mark Davies, for Webster, said his client had suffered a fall in 1995 which led to a degenerative back condition, and an initially legitimate claim for benefits. However, he said his client accepted the claim had later become dishonest, and he was remorseful for his actions.

The advocate added that while some members of the defendant’s family supported him, others had not spoken to him since reading about his fraudulent activities in the South Wales Evening Post.

The court heard Webster was currently repaying the benefits he wrongly claimed, and had so far paid back some £5,000.

Judge Christopher Clee QC told Webster: “This was thoroughly dishonest behaviour committed over a significant period of time. The reality is, you worked as a self-employed builder, and bought and sold cars. In these difficult times the benefit system is there for people who need it - not for people like you. Those who claim benefits over a significant period of time to which they are not entitled must expect prison.”

The judge said the starting point for the offences was 18 months custody - giving Webster credit for his guilty plea, that was reduced to 12 months, half of which he will serve in prison before being released.

The CPS said that at the time of his arrest Webster had more than £33,000 in the bank.

Hywel Rees, of the CPS, said: “Keith Webster fabricated a spinal injury to claim more than £65,000 in benefits. Despite his claims that he struggled day to day, he was found to be running a building business.  The CPS presented evidence which included CCTV of Webster lifting items in and out of his work van and carrying out tasks with ease, leading Webster to plead guilty.”

A timetable was set out for action to recover the outstanding money via Proceeds of Crime Act measures.

Source with pictures

10 Mar 2018

Light sentence for housing benefit fraud

A benefits cheat who lied that she was a struggling single parent but sublet her council-funded flat and made £64,000 has walked free from court.

Kenyan-born Gladys O'Brien was secretly living with her husband but then raked in money from tenants who rented her flat near Tooting Broadway during a five year stint.

The 44-year-old also claimed housing benefit from the property to cover rent to the real landlord, who was living in Hackney.

Prosecutor Miss Amanda McCabe told the court: 'She was not entitled to that benefit because she was living with her partner at another address.'

O'Brien submitted the housing benefit claim in January 2007 after claiming she was a 'single parent on a low income' but three years later began to sub-let the flat while living with her husband.

The mother-of-two married in 1997 but left her husband and successfully applied for a non-molestation order before reconciling and moving back in.

It was in March last year at Jobcentre interview where she admitted to having a husband.

The court heard: 'She did deny renting out the flat in Gilbey Road and receiving rental payments for it since 2010 and continuing to sign new tenancy agreements with the landlord while sub-letting it. She accepted her actions were selfish.'

O'Brien initially repaid Wandsworth Council £1,777 per month until October 30, last year, but that has dropped to £50 per week since February 2 after losing her job.

'She informed the benefits agency she became unemployed.'

O'Brien, who now lives in Bournemouth, was given an eight month sentence, suspended for 18 months, at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court.

She pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances and was ordered to complete 120 hours of community services. She is also subject to Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings to recover the money.

Source with pictures

28 Feb 2018

Unpaid work for benefit fraudster

A 61 year old Skipton woman who falsely claimed more than £14,000 in benefits has received a community sentence from Bradford Crown Court.

Claire Greenwood admitted at Skipton Magistrates' Court earlier this month to failing to notify Craven District Council of a change in her circumstances between April 7, 2014 and August 28, 2016.

She further admitted making a false statement to the council on or about October 13, 2008.

Greenwood failed to notify the council in her claim for housing and council tax benefit that she had worked for three different companies during the more than two year period.

She had also signed a council form confirming there had been no change in her circumstances, the court was told at the time.

Greenwood had been overpaid a total of £14,380.50p in council tax benefit and housing benefit. She was a woman of previous good character and had since paid back all the money.

Greenwood was sent to crown court for sentencing, where she received a 12 month community order with 120 hours unpaid work. She will also have to complete up to 15 rehabilitation requirement days, and pay a surcharge of £85.


27 Feb 2018

Housing officer jailed for illegal sub-letting

A housing officer who illegally sublet a council home has been jailed.

Julia Miah, 45, from Luton, was jailed for a year and ordered to pay £20,000 in compensation and £3,174 in costs after admitting she had never lived in a two-bed council property in East Finchley, which she was illegally subletting to a family member.

Miah was first given the keys to the council property in Prospect Ring in 2007, and immediately sublet it to a family member while she moved into a house in Luton which she jointly inherited.

She carried on the deception for 10 years, always declaring that she still lived in the property in East Finchley, but in April 2017 Barnet's Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT) launched an investigation after receiving a tip.

When Miah was interviewed under caution by Barnet Council counter-fraud offences, she admitted she had never lived in the flat and immediately agreed to hand back the keys.

Leader of Barnet Council, Cllr Richard Cornelius, said: "At a time of significant housing pressures, it is totally unacceptable for someone to abuse the system in this way for so long, without ever having any intention of living in the property. Council homes are there for people in genuine need of housing, not for personal gain. I hope the custodial sentence and order for compensation handed down by the court in this case, sends out a very clear message about the consequences for anyone who might be contemplating something similar."

Miah admitted to three counts of fraud by failing to disclose information.


26 Feb 2018

Conditional discharge for deliberate benefit fraud

A young mum scammed thousands of pounds in benefits in under a year - because the money was 'handy.'

Vicky Twizell, 23, admitted brazenly claiming £3,300 between March and October 2016, continuing to claim jobseekers' allowance and housing benefit even though her partner was working.

Despite now having a job at a Morrisons warehouse, Twizell is yet to pay back any of the money she owes.

A report by the probation service slammed her actions, stating: "She stole from everybody's pockets. She knows that she did wrong and she hoped she would get away with it for some time."

Prosecutor Alan Davies said: "The defendant made a claim on the basis she was unemployed and had no other income. She didn't declare her partner had started working. She admitted she should have declared it and money was something that came in handy."

Twizell was given an 18 month conditional discharge and ordered to pay back £85 costs and £20 charges.

Source with pictures