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11 Oct 2013

Slow prosecution of £500,000 tax credit fraud

A family of Czech immigrants pocketed £500,000 by flying eastern Europeans to Britain, fixing up benefit payments for them, then keeping the money for themselves. (h/t Dave)

The fraudsters set up more than 100 bank accounts in which to harvest the cash.

They hoodwinked scores of Slovakians into becoming benefit tourists by offering to find them housing and work in the UK.

Sisters Iveta and Magdalena Ferkova, 32 and 33, their aunt Alena Lackova, 39, and her husband Jan Lacko, 29, posed as interpreters, giving the foreign nationals temporary accommodation and helping them fill out National Insurance forms.

They were caught when police and HMRC investigators raided properties in Nottingham in April 2010, discovering 124 bank accounts set up to receive cash from 77 false tax credits.

Between January 2008 and April 2010, the gang swindled more than £500,000 from the HMRC in tax credits paid into the bank accounts.

In addition, they were in the process of claiming a further £535,000 when they were arrested.

The family used the cash to fund a lavish lifestyle of gambling in casinos around the UK, as well as splashing out on luxury cars including a Mercedes and BMW 5-Series.

The four, from Nottingham, were all found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by making false representations after a week-long trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

A fifth defendant, Julius Ziga, 34, who was Magdalena’s partner at the time, pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

The five will be sentenced on November 4. Judge James Sampson said: ‘The fact they are all charged with the same conspiracy doesn’t mean they are all as deeply involved. They played different roles.’

Abdul Iqbal, defending Lacko, said no money passed to his client’s bank account from the fraud and he did not get the National Insurance numbers for any claimant. Lackova’s barrister, Arshad Khan, said: ‘There is no evidence she lived a life of Riley.’

Matthew Sinclair, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘It’s deeply worrying that our soft-touch welfare system was so easily exploited by criminals.’

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