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26 Sep 2014

Repeat benefit fraudster jailed

A Coulsdon man has been sentenced to two and a half years after being convicted of multiple charges of dishonesty and one of money laundering in relation to his claims for Council Tax Benefit, Job Seekers Allowance and Pension Credit. (h/t Active Follower) The prosecution followed an in-depth investigation by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council.

Michael Peter O’Brien of Brighton Road, Coulsdon failed to declare ownership of three properties and the income he received from them to officers at Reigate & Banstead Borough Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Between 2003 and 2011 he claimed £14,668 of Council Tax Benefit from Reigate & Banstead and was overpaid £106,232 of Job Seekers Allowance and Pension Credit from the DWP. He also failed to declare bank accounts he held with HSBC.

"The sentence of two and a half years in custody reflects the seriousness of this case of fraud and money laundering," said Cllr Rita Renton, Reigate & Banstead’s executive member for housing and welfare. She continued: "Our officers fought hard to ensure Mr O’Brien was brought to court to answer the allegations, despite several attempts by him to delay court proceedings. Fraud costs local tax payers tens of thousands of pounds, diverting public funds away from those who need it; directly affecting our communities. It is only right that people who commit such crimes should be held to account and we work hard to investigate where we suspect fraud and to recover money claimed fraudulently."

Mr O’Brien is required to repay the overpayments in full. The council is now seeking to confiscate his assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the money. The hearing is scheduled for December.

He was convicted of six counts of dishonesty under the Social Security Administration Act 1992 covering false representations to Reigate & Banstead Borough Council and the Department of Work and Pensions. He was also convicted of one charge of money laundering under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 covering the conversion of criminal property (the proceeds of criminal conduct). As well as his home in Coulsdon, Mr O’Brien owns a second property in Brighton Road, Coulsdon. He previously owned a further property in Purley, Surrey and another in Gillingham, Kent, both of which he sold prior to the start of the investigation.

Mr O’Brien cancelled his claims for benefits from the DWP and Reigate & Banstead Borough Council in 2011 when he became aware of the investigation. He has previous convictions dating back to 1990 for benefit fraud.

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