21 Aug 2013

Barrister jailed for social housing fraud

This fraud was spotted in September 2011. Now, irony of ironies, she is living on benefits. No word of any equity in the two houses she owns which could be used to repay us.

A barrister who obtained a council flat and sub-let it while already owning two homes has been jailed for seven months.

Nadine Wilson-Ellis, 35, told officials she was a penniless unemployed single mother and was given a council flat in Bristol which she then illegally sub-let for £100-a-week.

The mother-of-two - who earned £30,000-a-year as a legal lecturer - lived 150 miles away with her husband in Nottingham in one of her two homes.

Wilson-Ellis - who recently qualified as a barrister - made £10,000 from the scam which she used to pay the mortgages on her other homes which were worth £55,000 and £73,000.

She was only caught out when she asked Bristol City Council for a bigger flat.

Investigators found she had falsified bank statements and a maternity certificate in an attempt to prove she was living in Bristol while she lived and worked 150 miles away.

She was teaching law full-time at a higher education college in Nottingham with a £30,000 salary.

Judge Michael Longman jailed her for seven months at Bristol Crown Court.He said:
The effect was to provide you with accommodation that you did not need and that was in the place of someone who was more deserving. As to the harm [you caused] that too was high because your behaviour resulted in a more deserving candidate being denied the accommodation that was offered to you. You brazenly lied in the face of the most damning evidence which fortunately the jury saw through.
Prosecutors on behalf of the council said the scam cost the taxpayer almost £75,000 - around £35,000 in investigation and court costs.

The council say because she had the flat they had to pay for a genuine claimant to live elsewhere at a cost of £39,000.

Had she pleaded guilty at the first hearing, court costs would have been just £3,700.

The court heard she applied for a council house in September 2008, but used forged bank statements showing an address in Bristol, and a form which had false information about her job.

Wilson-Ellis then applied for a bigger council house in Bristol in September 2011, again giving false information about her address and income.

She has since lost her job as a result of the court proceedings, and is now on benefits and going through a divorce.

Wilson-Ellis was sentenced to seven months in prison and wailed loudly as she was led down to the cells, while members of her family blew kisses to her.

Prosecuting, Alan Fuller had asked the judge to order Wilson-Ellis to pay back some or all of the council’s costs, but the judge declined to impose that punishment.

Bristol’s Assistant Mayor Gus Hoyt, responsible for neighbourhoods and council housing, accused her of a 'shocking abuse of the system':
It is hard to think that our investigation officers will come across a worse example of fraud. Tenancy fraud is theft, pure and simple. It robs those who are in genuine need of social housing of a precious and scarce resource. There are currently more than 14,000 people on the waiting list in Bristol. The need for social housing has never been greater. This was scandalous.
If Wilson-Ellis had not been caught she would eventually have qualified for the right to buy a larger council house in Bristol, depriving a family in genuine need of much sought-after social housing.

Speaking during her trial, Wilson-Ellis told Bristol Crown Court she had not rented out her council flat and insisted the tenant was a friend. She claimed:
The lady who stayed with me was not living there. She was paying me back. I had lent her some money previously, to help her out so she could help her mum out back in Jamaica for her mum’s surgery.
Defending Wilson-Ellis, Shahida Begum said her client did not financially benefit from the scheme:
When she came to Bristol she did just want a haven away from her ex-partner. She has lost her job. She has had to put in a claim for income support because she has no other means. She is extremely remorseful.
Remorseful and wailing because she was caught.

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