12 Sep 2014

Council obtains compensation order

Rashpal Kaur was convicted in May 2012 of 22 offences in relation to dishonestly claiming housing benefit, council tax benefit and carers allowance. (h/t Dave)

The offences also included money laundering and a perverting the course of justice charge, and the former benefits office worker was sentenced to 32 months in prison following an investigation by Sandwell Council's counter fraud unit.

Amongst other things the money was used to fund her daughter’s education at a private school.

Following Kaur’s conviction, a financial investigator in Sandwell Council's trading standards team carried out a thorough investigation into her finances to obtain a confiscation order.

It was found that in addition to the £35,000 in benefits that she fraudulently obtained, Kaur had failed to account for money passing through her accounts amounting to £190,000.

During a hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court on September 2, Judge Michael Dudley agreed with the evidence and ordered that the full amount be paid to Sandwell Council.

Kaur was also ordered to pay prosecution costs of in excess of £80,000.

Councillor Steve Eling, deputy leader and finance boss at Sandwell Council, said: "We have always prosecuted the most serious cases of benefit fraud. Now we also have the option to take confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act where an individual is found to have assets. This legislation can force them to sell these assets in order to satisfy the overpayment."

In addition to fraud prosecutions, the council has used the legislation to secure orders in relation to trading standards prosecutions and breaches of planning regulations.

Where defendants are sent to prison for not paying the confiscation order in accordance with the timescales set by the court, they are still liable to pay the amount on their release from prison.

Councillor Paul Moore, in charge of trading standards, said: "The Proceeds of Crime Act is an opportunity for councils to be at the forefront of protecting local communities by showing that crime does not pay. We have two officers who are accredited to investigate and take Proceeds of Crime confiscation proceedings against criminals who have profited from crime, and we will not hesitate to use these powers in appropriate situations."

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