9 Sep 2015

Teacher's wife in £25k benefit fraud

A teacher's wife who dishonestly raked in almost £25,000 in benefits by claiming she was single-handedly bringing up her five children has been spared an immediate prison sentence.

Thaira Bi, 39, now the mother of six children, cheated the taxpayer out of £17,262 in Income Support and £7,648 in Housing and Council Tax Benefits, Bradford Crown Court heard.

Bi was living with her husband, Muzzafer Iqbal, in Hustler Street, Undercliffe, Bradford, during a fraud that spanned more than four years.

She was sentenced to 20 weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 100 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Mark Savill set a timetable for a confiscation hearing and ordered Bi, who had already handed back £2,000, to keep repaying back the money.

Prosecutor Emma Downing said Bi was sent by magistrates to the crown court after pleading guilty to two offences of benefit fraud, between December 2008 and March 2013.

She told Bradford Council and the Department of Work and Pensions she was living alone with her five children but, from December 2, 2008, she was living with her husband.

Miss Downing said it was not known when they married but Mr Iqbal told his employer, Olive Secondary School, in Barkerend, Bradford, in August 2008 that he was married to Bi. As well as teaching at the school, he was employed part-time at Asda, between October 2010 and November 2013.

On three occasions after that, Bi completed review forms claiming she lived alone. She stated Mr Iqbal was her landlord and gave an address in Dewsbury for him.

When interviewed by benefit investigators in September last year, Bi said her husband only stayed with her a few nights a week. She claimed her marriage was in trouble after he had an affair and that he was not supporting his family. When shown proof that Mr Iqbal was buying furniture for the house and had paid for home improvements, she admitted they were living together as a family and that she had lied.

Bi's barrister, Sohail Khan, said she was of previous good character. Her first husband died tragically, leaving her to bring up their three children.

Mr Iqbal was in court to support her and both "hung their heads in shame."

"She is resolute that the money will be repaid," Mr Khan said. "She is remorseful and accepts her guilt."

Judge Savill said Bi was of hitherto excellent character and "never in a million years" would have expected to appear before a crown court. He told her: "You have done a huge disservice to people genuinely entitled to benefits and those people who work hard to allow those benefits to be paid."

He reserved any breach of the suspended sentence order to himself.


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