A woman must pay back over £200,000 following an investigation by Thurrock Council’s counter fraud team into benefit fraud.
Of that, over £46,000 must go to the council to repay benefits fraudulently received and over £43,000 to be used by the council to fight and investigate similar cases.
Eniah Nhika, 43, of Belmont Road, Grays, a Zimbabwean national, first applied for housing and council tax benefit from Thurrock Council in December 2013.
Following an investigation, she was arrested at home and a number of items were seized that later became evidence in the case. Council financial investigators obtained an order from the Crown Court restraining her assets in December 2013.
The court heard how, during the investigation, officers uncovered evidence of benefit fraud dating back to 1999 when Nhika first claimed benefits from Hackney Council.
Officers also identified benefit fraud offences, identity document offences, and a fraudulent right to buy purchase of a Hackney Council flat leading to a Magistrates’ Court summons in May 2014.
She admitted nine out of ten offences at Basildon Magistrates Court and the matter was committed to Basildon Crown Court for sentencing where she received a suspended sentence and was ordered to complete unpaid community work.
The council’s confiscation investigation discovered Nhika was receiving money from rental income in breach of the restraint order, leading further summonses and in July this year she was convicted of contempt of court and received a further four months suspended sentence.
A determined fraudster who doesn't care. But the system seems determined not to give her proper punishment.
Following the detailed confiscation investigation, on October 14 at Basildon Crown Court the following confiscation order was made: benefit from criminal conduct £371,173.72; available amount: £216,153; confiscation order £216,153.
Of that figure £32,061.17 goes to HMRC; £22,160.84 to the DWP; and £46,593 to Thurrock Council. Judge Jonathan Lodge allowed the maximum three months to pay and if it is not paid, Nhika faces a further 30-month prison sentence in addition to the sentence already handed down for the fraud offences.
HHJ Lodge expressed his thanks to Thurrock Council’s for the quality and professionalism of its investigation and its presentation of the facts.
The remaining money goes into the Home Office Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme and Thurrock Council will receive a further 18.75% of it as the investigating agency, and 18.75% as the Proceeds of Crime Act agency – funds which, by law, has to be used to “fight crime”.