6 Feb 2014

Repeat benefit thief escapes jail

A shamed benefit cheat couple from Hatfield covered their faces as they walked free from court.

Shameem and Fateha Chowdhury, 46 and 38 respectively, scurried from St Albans Crown Court with coats on their heads, after a judge spared them a jail term despite fleecing the taxpayer out of nearly £50,000, in a two-year benefit fraud.

The married pair worked as taxi drivers while they helped themselves to £33,116 in income support, £12,265 in housing benefit and £3,609 council tax benefit, a staggering total of £48,990.

The con was one of the biggest benefit frauds ever seen in Welwyn Hatfield.

It was also revealed Shameem Chowdhury, of Tiger Moth Way, had a previous conviction for a similar offence in 2000.

The latest fraud took place between September 2007 and December 2009.

Why did it stop?

Judge Marie Catterson did not jail the shameless pair after hearing mitigation from their defence counsel Shiraz Rustom.

Speaking about his clients, Mr Rustom told the court: “They are not people who are mentally equipped to deal with a prison term.

“They are petrified.”

Don't steal our money then.

And he said the couple’s fraud was not deliberate, but an “omission”.

He also said if they were sent to jail they would find it harder to find work in the future and subsequently pay back their ill-gotten gains, which they were currently doing “painfully slowly”, at a rate of £210 per month.

The benefits payments began legitimately when Fateha Chowdhury suffered complications after giving birth by Caesarean section, but she and her husband started working as taxi drivers while still claiming the cash.

It was also revealed they had “deliberately concealed their earnings in a Halifax bank account”.

As part of the mitigation a letter from a PCSO Wallace was passed to the judge in support of the couple.

Summing up, the judge told them: “Your conduct was blatant and persistent dishonesty.

“You were taking scarce public resources to which you were not entitled.”

She sentenced them to an eight month prison term, which was suspended for 18 months and slapped them with 180 hours of unpaid work.


steven howard said...

I think there's a time to weed out benefit fraudsters & it's once we've recovered all the revenue lost through corporate tax avoidance & low tax on bankers bonus & mansions. A top down approach if you will. The article above is so misleading & comes from a bad place. 1. Straight away the article tries to animalise the defendants... Scurried? These people are not rats. Human beings do not "scurry".
2. It is stated in the article that the claims started legally. Are we ever told when the claim became fraudulent? This could have a big effect on the perceived amount fraudulently claimed. 3. Why place all the blame the clamant when it's your government's system that creates the loopholes? SUGGESTION: Why not use all the time & energy put into this site to petition the government to create jobs by opening a unit that deals with claimants with a more thorough check more often? Could it be that you actually like to have these tragic people to look down upon? Is your aim as true as you think? 5. If this is one of "the biggest" benefit fraud cases in the region (£1300 per year per person in this case) how can you justify the speculative figures on your home page about the amounts it costs the country as a whole? Isn't it all simply conjecture, or worse lies, in the tradition of a Daily Mail/Sun readers misinformed view of the world born of a misplaced obsession with a relatively tiny minority costing HMRC revenue a relatively minute amount of money in comparison to, say, corporate tax avoidance. If as much energy was put into closing those particular loop holes then a single company like Google or Starbucks would generate untold revenue for the UK & maybe we could stop panelising the most vulnerable with cuts. 6. Obsessing on these tiny amounts claimed by people who are poor to start with & remain poor even while claiming & after the whole sorry saga seems small minded & transparently mean spirited in the face of bankers greed & corporate theft.
A. Adopt a "top down" approach for the targets of your ire. It's a more morally correct & if successful, profitable target.
B. Be as angry with the government as with the claimants.
C. Most benefit claimants are deserving & the amount of fraud is no where near as much as you've been lead to believe.

Anonymous said...

If every taxi driver on benefits was investigated.....oh my

but usually they dont claim income supprt as working tax credits is far easier and attracts far less attention, the fact is that folk who say they arent working to claim but then work are likely to get caught whereas folk who under declare cash income or even say they ARE working to claim WTC/WFTC when they arent are rarely brought to task