8 Apr 2014

Benefits criminal returned to UK for prison sentence

We have met Ms Ferkova before, and here she is again.

A Czech fraudster who flew vulnerable foreign nationals to Britain so they could falsely claim £1.2million in benefits has been jailed after spending almost six months on the run.

Magdalena Ferkova, 33, was part of a five-strong family gang who made £33,000 a week from the scam - but she fled Britain in November during her trial.

A European Arrest Warrant was issued the next month and finally she was recaptured in her home country and returned to Britain.

Ferkova and her partner, Julius Ziga, 34, masterminded a racket in which countless false claims were made for tax credits and child benefit.

Their trial at Nottingham Crown Court heard they successfully took £750,000 and would have made another £500,000 had they not been caught.

During the scam, the couple arranged for vulnerable foreign nationals from the Czech Republic and Slovakia to be brought to Nottingham, where they were told they would be given jobs.

The gang then took their passports, housed them in the city temporarily and 'helped' them to get a National Insurance number and open a bank account.

After forcing the individuals to make applications for tax credits and Child Benefit, the gang sent the claimants home.

Ferkova, who lived in Nottingham while in the UK, absconded during the trial last year and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

She was tracked down in her home country after officials at HM Revenue & Customs listed her on their Most Wanted gallery of tax fugitives.

Carolyn Norsworthy, assistant director in charge of criminal investigation, said:
Magdalena Ferkova thought she could flee the country to avoid justice. She was wrong. We have tracked her down and, working with the Czech authorities, have brought her before the UK courts so justice can be served. Ferkova was part of an extremely well-organised and ruthless crime group, committed to stealing vast amounts of public money at the expense of the British taxpayer. They exploited the many people they lured to the UK from abroad with the promise of legal employment, but then manipulated and discarded them.
Ferkova was brought back before Nottingham Crown Court, where she was jailed for five years.

Judge James Sampson told her: 'You are obviously a clever woman and intelligent, but thoroughly dishonest and a brazen liar.'

The series of 77 false claims were made to HMRC between January 1, 2008 and April 14, 2010, and the four other gang members received sentences totalling 12 years. All five denied conspiracy to commit fraud by making false representations, except Ziga, who pleaded guilty.

The five fraudsters have been recommended for deportation at the end of their sentences, and proceedings were started last year to confiscate the spoils of their crimes.

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