1 Dec 2015

The slow, slow pursuit of benefit fraud

A benefits fraudster who moved into his garden shed while renting out his four bedroom council townhouse via Gumtree has finally been evicted.

John Gallagher, 64, was jailed in August after a court heard he could have raked in nearly £50,000 a year in rent and benefits from the house in Fulham, west London.

He lived in his converted garden shed, installing an en-suite bathroom and built-in wardrobe whilst illegally renting out the four bedrooms in the £750,000 terraced property.

The council charged the divorcee £139 a week for the house where he had lived for around 20 years.

Meanwhile, Gallagher charged 'tenants' up to £700 a month per room with an added £100 towards bills.

He also claimed up to £95,000 in income support, pension credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

In August, he was jailed for 10 months after admitting five counts of fraud against Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the Department of Work and Pensions.

The judge said his 'sophisticated' level of deception was too serious for a suspended sentence.

Now a court has awarded possession of the house back to the council, meaning it can now be allocated to another family.

The council said it had applied for a bailiff's warrant and is awaiting an eviction date.

Cllr Lisa Homan, Hammersmith and Fulham Council's Cabinet Member for Housing said: 'We will always pursue cases like this to ensure our housing stock is returned to those who genuinely need it. Mr Gallagher tried to cheat the system and thanks to great work from our housing and fraud teams, he is now behind bars and a much-needed home can be returned to proper use.'

The 64-year-old was snared after a tip-off to the council who launched an investigation.

Council fraud inspectors went to the house but Gallagher refused them entry to the garden and shed and stated he did not know where the key was to a locked bedroom on the second floor.

He said a male friend found in one of the rooms was visiting from east London, but could not provide the officers with his surname or date of birth.

Inspectors later cross-referenced the mobile telephone number Gallagher provided when he had applied for a parking permit against advertising website Gumtree. They also found adverts for rooms to rent, which the officers recognised as those they had seen earlier.

The full scale of his fraud was uncovered during a raid in the early hours of October 20, 2014.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Probably going to get even slower as Housing Benefit fraud moves from councils to a nationwide team.