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7 Nov 2016

Ex council officer worked the system

A former Croydon Council employee who used her knowledge of the benefits system to her own advantage has been given a suspended prison sentence. (h/t Dave)

An investigation by the council’s corporate anti-fraud team found that Khush Thapar, 45, of Hartley Down, Coulsdon, had fraudulently claimed more than £6,000 in direct care payments.

She appeared at Croydon Crown Court, on 28 October, having previously pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonest false accounting, under the Theft Act 1968. It was found that she had misused direct payments awarded to her, which were designed to pay for her care needs.

An investigation was launched following her failure to maintain an audit trail of her use of the payments. It was established that, over the three-year period to 2012, she had used some of the payments in an unauthorised way to pay baby sitters while she went out socialising. The deception resulted in an overpayment of £6,365.

In her defence, she maintained she didn’t fully understand the direct payments scheme. The court heard, however, that she was a former employee of Croydon Council, where one aspect of her job included advising clients about the scheme.

His Honour Judge Ainley said that Thapar had used her knowledge of the scheme, and seized an opportunity to use the money to pay for things that she knew were not permitted.

He imposed a custodial sentence of 18 weeks, suspended for two years, and ordered her to pay £1,000 toward the cost of the prosecution.

Councillor Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said: “It’s always sad when somebody uses their inside knowledge of a particular system and abuses that system for personal gain. It’s particularly sad when that person used to work for the council and manipulated a payment scheme that’s designed to help those who genuinely need that assistance. The diligence of our corporate anti-fraud team, however, is to be congratulated for bringing this crime to light and gathering sufficient evidence to secure a successful prosecution.”

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