8 Dec 2010

Long-winded process just to get our money back

At Chelmsford Crown Court on 10 November, report Epping Forest District Council, convicted Benefit fraudster Simplice Yamgoue was ordered to repay £33,103.73 to them. Judge Mr Recorder Ash QC ordered the repayment of Housing and Council Tax benefit to which Mr Yamgoue was not entitled within twenty-one days, after the council successfully secured a confiscation of assets order.

Simplice Yamgoue, formerly of Roman Way, Waltham Abbey, was sentenced to 12 Months imprisonment on 8 April 2010 at Chelmsford Crown Court, after pleading guilty to three offences of Housing and Council Tax benefit fraud at a hearing on 10 March 2010. Following Mr Yamgoue’s sentencing, the council applied for a confiscation of assets order. Further investigations by the council with assistance from Essex Police revealed that the undeclared £45,000 in bonds which the prosecution was in relation to had been disposed of. Further Moneys totalling an excess of £70,000 were also discovered in bank accounts belonging to Simplice Yamgoue. The courts placed a restraint order on this money to prevent him from withdrawing or dissipating of it.

Court papers were served on Simplice Yamgoue where he has been living in Manchester since being released from prison on licence. The judge has now varied the restraint order to allow Mr Yamgoue to be able to repay the sum of £33,103.73 to the Council in the time given. However, the remaining money is still under restraint until the owed money is repaid. This is the first occasion Epping Forest District Council has used the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 (POCA) to secure the return of money paid in overpaid benefits.

The Portfolio Holder responsible for Legal services, at Epping Forest District Council, Councillor Lesley Wagland said
Housing and Council Tax benefit is meant for people who genuinely need help. The Council takes benefit fraud very seriously and works very hard to investigate cases such as this. I am pleased the prosecution under the proceeds of Crime Act has been successful as the overpaid money should be recovered much sooner than would have been previously. Benefit Fraudsters should not be allowed to make a profit from their crime when they were not entitled to the money in the first place.
  • It shouldn't be this complex and time consuming.

    Benefit thieves should have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should not be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have.

    A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

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