A gang involved in a £2.8 million benefit fraud and sham marriage scam has been brought to justice after a major crackdown. (h/t Dave)
Ringleader Amankou Ndoli, from Stretton, near Burton, was convicted of fraud at Croydon Crown Court after leading a gang which falsely obtained National Insurance numbers to claim handouts over seven years.
The 48-year-old also arranged 225 sham marriages to allow migrants to receive marriage certificates recognised in the UK at an 'incalculable' cost to the British taxpayer.
He was arrested following a series of dawn raids in Burton and London in June last year. These involved officers from the Home Office, Metropolitan Police, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and several other agencies.
One of his accomplices was Erica Lazdane, 47, from Winshill. She was jailed for 12 months after admitting to being involved with a sham marriage as part of the scam.
The gang, made up of six people in total, four based in London, were jailed for a total of 17 years – with Ndoli awaiting to learn his fate after falling ill just before the sentencing hearing.
A spokesman for the DWP said: "A small number of criminals view our welfare system as free money there for the taking. These benefit thieves are cheating money out of hardworking taxpayers and stealing funds that should help the most vulnerable. People who commit organised fraud try to turn the welfare system into a money-making industry and our investigators are working closely with local councils and the police to bring these criminals to justice."
The court heard that Ndoli brought French nationals into Britain for Home Office interviews to apply for National Insurance numbers. The French arrivals would then return home, while the gang created bank accounts to pretend they were EU citizens still living in the UK. The fraudsters would then use the numbers to apply for housing, council tax and work benefits, child allowances and tax credits.
The gang also took part in arranging sham marriages between those in Ghana and the Ivory Coast and the same French citizens whose National Insurance numbers had been taken. The couple would remain in Britain, while they were represented by others 'by proxy' at a wedding in Africa. Certificates from such unions are recognised as legitimate in this country under European law.
The six faced the main charge that between 2008 and 2015 they conspired to fraudulently exploit the identities of EU nationals. All admitted fraud at a hearing in October.