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10 May 2013

Havering prosecutes social housing frauds, gets govt grant

A Romford man has been jailed for six weeks for benefit fraud after illegally subletting his council house. (h/t VNCounterFraud)

John Delgado, 34, was jailed for six weeks at Romford Magistrates' Court yesterday, Thursday May 9 after he pleaded guilty to fraudulently claiming more than £14,000 in benefits.

Delgado had been claiming both housing and Council tax benefit since 1993 while living in a Council home in Harold Hill.

But an investigation by Havering Council found that in 2009 he had moved in with his partner at her home in Romford and was illegally subletting his Council property for profit.

Magistrates handed down an immediate custodial sentence due to aggravating factors including the length of time Delgado continued to fraudulently claim benefits, the large amount he defrauded from the Council, that his acts were motivated by greed and that he had shown no remorse for his actions.

His Council home has now been retrieved by the council and given to another tenant who had been on the waiting list.

In a separate case, Harold Hill resident Gary Hicks, 50, was also sentenced to six weeks in prison, suspended for two years, and given a curfew from 7pm to 7am daily, for fraudulently claiming benefits.

Hicks admitted claiming almost £9,000 in housing and Council tax benefit. He was also not living in his Council home, in Dartfields, Harold Hill and was subletting the address. An investigation was launched following a tip-off from a neighbour who said he had not lived there for 12 years.

He will also be electronically tagged for three months and was ordered to pay £500 towards prosecution costs and an additional £80 victim surcharge. The Council has also taken steps to retrieve his Council home.

To help continue investigating cases such as these, Havering Council has recently received a £200,000 grant from the Government. This money will help the Council continue to tackle housing fraud and retrieve Council homes which are not being used correctly for families in need.

It will fund investigators and prosecutions and, during the next two years, the Council hopes to retrieve an additional 100 properties from fraudsters.

Housing fraud is undertaken in a number of ways, such as subletting or not using a property as a main residence or illegally obtaining a property.

Councillor Roger Ramsey, Cabinet Member for Value, said:
We want our message to be clear to fraudsters; you won't get away with it in Havering. We are looking for you and we will find you.

Council housing is there for the most vulnerable people in our communities and we will take all necessary steps to prevent people from obtaining a home and not using it for the reason it was given. With a waiting list of local families in need, we will do everything we can to ensure any homes being used fraudulently are returned to us so that deserving families can live in them.
Well said.

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