A profoundly deaf couple who made almost £2million from a disability allowance scam and spent the cash on a lavish lifestyle have been ordered to repay £700,000.
Shahab, 53, and Shehnaz Reza, 55, used cash intended for society’s most vulnerable to pay for holidays across the globe and jewellery.
Mr Reza persuaded his wife, along with his son Dr Abbas Reza, 27, to take part in his scheme by submitting fake invoices for sign language interpreters. Cash was splurged on a luxury home, a £600,000 penthouse, gold jewellery, an £8,000 ‘flawless’ diamond, a holiday to Dubai and a ‘student jolly’ to America.
The husband and wife have now been ordered by a judge at Southwark Crown Court to repay £702,402.70 of their profits or face extra time in jail.
Shabab, jailed for nine years in February last year after he admitted conspiracy to defraud, benefited to the tune of £1,017,811.31. Shehnaz, who sat in the public gallery after serving her 22 month jail sentence, profited by £909,389.28, the court heard.
The couple were ordered to repay a sizeable chunk of the profits after questions were raised about possible offshore assets.
Cash from the scam, which ran between 2009 and 2011, was spent on property, jewellery, holidays and investments.
Shahab and Shehnaz also lied about the family’s financial circumstances to Harrow Council, netting nearly £100,000 in benefits and tax exemptions between June 2002 and August 2010.
Shehnaz was previously described as having the reading level of an eight-year-old and may have been coerced into committing the fraud by Shahab, who had a previous conviction for assaulting his wife.
Jailing Shehnaz for 22 months, Judge John Price had said: ‘Mrs Reza is profoundly deaf, has been all her life and she was under the influence of her husband. He provided a substantial lifestyle for the family, they lived well and she took part in that, and by her plea she admits being part of that.’
Abbas Reza – who is not deaf – had really struggled for cash during his studies to become a doctor. He was previously handed a six month sentence suspended for 18 months after the judge agreed he had been ‘under the influence’ of his father.
The cash was laundered through accounts in Canada, the United Arab Emirates and the UK and then spent on luxuries.
Shehnaz regularly claimed business expenses despite not appearing to do any work and Abbas was claiming for his mobile phone insurance.
Shahab orchestrated the four-year con by submitting fake invoices for sign language interpreters to the Department of Work and Pensions through the Access to Work scheme. The accountant set up six sham companies to claim thousands a month in bogus fees on the basis of the fraudulent claim forms.
But he had to widen the pool of people the cash was being paid to so Shahab used his connection with his mosque and the training college UCanDoIt to recruit further fraud members.
He recruited the family’s cleaner Daiva Alisaskaite, 44, and a second woman, Natela Babina, 32, to submit false invoices as ’employees’ of the company.
Neither of them ever required an interpreter or support worker yet they submitted false claims worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Alisauskaite made £8,000 while Babina pocketed £9,500, after they collectively submitted 48 false claims over 23 months.
They were both handed 12-month prison sentences, suspended for 18 months, after being found guilty of fraud by false representation.
Following a trial Shehnaz Reza was found guilty of fraud by false representation, obtaining money transfer by deception, and dishonestly obtaining exemption from paying council tax. Their son Abbas denied and was convicted of one count of fraud by false representation.
Shehnaz and Abbas had admitted one charge of conspiracy to defraud to avoid a retrial. Abbas further pleaded guilty to a charge of transferring criminal property relating to £50,000 he transferred from his HSBC account to his dad.
Jurors were also unable to reach verdicts on daughter Zainab Reza, 24, who faced charges of conspiracy to defraud and failing to disclose their her financial position to the Student Loans Company. The charges against her were ordered to lie on file.
Shahab Reza was ordered to repay £598,682.01 of his £1,017,811.31 profit within six months or face an extra four years in jail.
Shehnaz Reza must pay back £103,719.69 of her £909,389.28 benefit in the same time period or face an extra two years and three months behind bars.