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6 Apr 2013

Stoke benefit thief claims benefit fraud common in her community

A 'vulnerable' mother-of-two was overpaid more than £23,000 in benefits during a seven year period that she was working.

Naima Vaker, aged 47, continued to claim the income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, North Staffordshire magistrates heard.

Prosecutor Zulficar Ali said Vaker failed to tell the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) and Stoke-on-Trent City Council she was in employment at Longport sunglasses company Foster Grant Limited.

Mr Ali said: "The defendant failed to declare to the council and the DWP she was in employment. It came to light, following information received, that the defendant was in receipt of benefit and in employment. Inquiries were made with the employer, Foster Grant, and the bank who confirmed she was in employment between April 2003 and July 2010."

The court heard Vaker was interviewed in November 2011 and initially she said the wages being paid into her bank account were her son's.

However, she went on to admit she was in employment with Foster Grant.

Vaker pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances on dates between April 2003 and August 2010 and making a false statement to obtain benefit on June 8, 2006.

The defendant, who is of previous good character, pleaded guilty on the basis there was no element of dishonesty involved.

In total, she was overpaid £23,015.58. But she has been making repayments to the council and the overpayment now stands at £22,765.31.

Hayley Keegan, mitigating, said Vaker's claims were legitimate from the outset and the defendant has been guilty of being extremely naive:
She is extremely reliant on people around her. She is extremely vulnerable and is very much oppressed within the home.

She made the claims for benefits and then accepts, later on along the line, she started to work.

It all came about after she spoke to other women in the community who all told her that is what they did and there was no reason why she should not do the same.

She did not really question their judgement. She went along with that, believing she was entitled to still claim the benefits.
Miss Keegan said Vaker has a poor grasp of the English language. The forms were being read by friends and family members, who were telling her, 'You can sign that form, it's fine'. That is what she did. She just signed the forms and they were sent off.

The family and friends were complicit.
As a result of that she has had to accept she is guilty of these offences. She has not been dishonest in any way.
That's just not true. She lied in interview.

Miss Keegan added that Vaker will have to repay the money in full.

Magistrates sentenced Vaker to a community order with 100 hours unpaid work and told her to pay £100 costs.

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