A mother who lied about the whereabouts of the father of her children so she could falsely claim benefits could face prison for fraud.
Ines Da Silva and Gasono Agogo, both aged 37, pleaded guilty to fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in housing benefit, council tax support and discounts when they appeared at Harrow Crown Court on Wednesday, December 7.
Da Silva had claimed that she was living alone at Blenheim Mews in Shenley, with their two children, and provided false tenancy agreements in May 2014 and May 2015 to support this.
As part of her deception, she also wrote a letter to benefits officers who were suspicious about her living arrangements, and claimed that she did not know of Agogo’s whereabouts.
However, following an investigation by Hertfordshire’s shared anti-fraud service (SAFS), the real tenancy agreement was discovered, which showed the pair had been living together since January 2015 and that Agogo, a company director, had been paying the monthly rent to the couple’s landlord.
The pair received £18,127.46 in housing benefit and £2,148.15 in council tax support between June 9, 2014, and January 3, 2016.
Da Silva pleaded guilty to four counts of dishonestly making a false representation and one count of furnishing a false document, while Agogo pleaded guilty to two counts of forgery.
After they appeared in court, Cllr Morris Bright, leader of Hertsmere borough council, said: “This case goes above and beyond simply failing to update changes in circumstances, and shows a real determination to cheat the system. As well as going through the ordeal of a court case, the couple now face the prospect of prison. No matter what the short-term rewards are, lying to claim benefits or discounts in council tax is totally unacceptable.”
They will be sentenced at Harrow Crown Court on January 19.
It is the latest local case to be brought to prosecution by SAFS, which was formed to tackle tenancy, blue badge and council tax fraud in April last year.