13 Jan 2015

Benefits worker became benefits thief

A council benefits assessor created several fake identities to fraudulently claim £32,000 in housing benefits he was not entitled to.

Anthony McHale, 55, was branded a 'dishonest, fraudulent crook' by a judge after it was revealed he used his intimate knowledge of the benefits system, learned in his role at Wolverhampton City Council, to set up six fake accounts and funnel the money into his bank.

McHale abused his position - one he had held for 24 years - to pocket a total of £32,326 in housing benefits between August 1, 2012 and September 8 last year.

He was sentenced to 20 months in prison, suspended for two years.

At a hearing at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Mary Stacey said: 'You are a dishonest, fraudulent crook who used your specialist knowledge to commit this crime.'

The court heard McHale fraudulently claimed the cash while working as a benefit assessor at Wolverhampton City Council, where he was responsible for processing and managing claims.

He set up six fraudulent benefit claims under fake female identities with false national insurance numbers, managing the accounts so he could claim the cash himself.

McHale used real addresses for the accounts and his scam was only uncovered when a member of public called the council telling them they had received a letter addressed to a claimant who did not live there.

The council's fraud department started an investigation into the discrepancy and McHale confessed what he had been doing, saying he needed the cash to pay off his debts.

McHale, of Willenhall admitted six counts of fraud. He must also carry out 300 hours of unpaid work. He lives in an area of Willenhall where homes are valued at £150,000.

Oliver Woolhouse, defending, said McHale had built up massive debts by 'robbing Peter to pay Paul' with five or six credit cards but had kept this secret from his wife.

David Elliott, Acting Head of the West Midlands Crown Prosecution Service' Crown Court Unit, said after the hearing: 'Anthony McHale was employed by Wolverhampton City Council in a position of trust which involved him dealing with and ensuring the correct benefits were paid to those who were entitled to it. However, he abused this trust and through his knowledge of the system, he began to defraud the council by creating fictitious claims and paying housing benefit to himself. Over a two year period McHale defrauded the council out of £32,326 which he used to pay off personal debts which he had built up. The CPS will now take steps to recover from him the amounts stolen.'

Councillor Paul Sweet, Wolverhampton City Council's cabinet member for governance and performance, said: 'The employee was suspended as soon as the allegation came to light and a disciplinary investigation is underway. Wolverhampton City Council expects the highest standards of professionalism and integrity from all of its employees. We will not allow people to commit fraud against the council and we will work tirelessly to bring perpetrators to book. The city council operates a zero tolerance policy on fraud, corruption and bribery and takes all allegations extremely seriously.'


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

He escaped jail!?!

£30K for 300 'un paid work', thats 10 weeks. Higher than his salary.