13 Dec 2017

Immigrant benefit thief stole £244,000

A benefits fraudster conned 22 councils out of £244,000 in fraudulent housing benefit claims.

Tania Amisi, who lived in Chelsea Harbour, an upmarket district of London, tricked local authorities for six years using fake names into paying her housing and council benefits for properties she did not live at.

The mother of three, who came to the UK from Congo as an asylum seeker aged 12 and was granted indefinite leave to remain, would claim benefits on properties which already had tenants as well as on her own property.

She had also put in applications for a further £65,000 that was not paid to her. Amisi even featured in a BBC documentary Britain on the Fiddle this March which showed her lavish lifestyle and exposed other wealthy benefit claimants.

The 27-year-old spent some of the cash on her £25,000 handbag collection and luxury holidays to the Congo, Ivory Coast, America, Egypt, Morocco, and Turkey.

After pleading guilty to three counts of fraud in January 2015 at Westminster Magistrates' Court, she cut off her electronic tag and went on the run in Europe for two years.

She was charged with other counts and bank statements showed that when she was due for trial at Southwark Crown Court she had bought Eurostar tickets and booked herself into a hotel in Paris. Two days later she went to the Sheraton hotel in Brussels, which costs more than £100 a night. She also posed on Facebook bragging about her travels to the Congo and Istanbul.

When local authorities discovered the fraud the genuine tenants, who had nothing to do with it, were evicted. While on one trip Amisi spent €2,600 in a Prada outlet. She had Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, YSL, Givenchy and Dolce and Gabbana bags thrown at the bottom of a wardrobe.

Amisi also set up a false fashion company called Le Chateau Dior and used a fake name Tania Westwood to claim against Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.

Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) agents carried out surveillance on Amisi after she tried to cash phony cheques and discovered thousands of pounds being paid into her account by councils across London.

She was also known as Tania Abidi, Becca Amisi and Tania Alicia with seven different credit cards linked to these four aliases, plus two Congolese passports.

When the DWP raided her Chelsea Harbour home they found full length pictures of her in designer dresses on the wall and she had posing for photshoots which were posted on Instagram.

Amisi made thousands every month from each council, submitting 37 claims against 22 councils - 21 of which were in London. The fraudster claimed she earned the money to pay for her lifestyle by working in a minimum wage job at a local betting shop.

Amisi was pregnant with her fourth child when she was finally arrested in Paris in July after a European Arrest Warrant was issued. She was extradited to Britain and will give birth in prison.

She was convicted in her absence of a further 17 fraud offences between September 2008 and December 2014 plus one charge of skipping bail.

Southwark Crown Court heard the frauds were "an addiction" and she spent some of the money on a Cartier watch and Christian Dior clothes.

Amisi came to the UK from the Congo as an asylum seeker aged around 12 after her father was assassinated, the court heard.

Amit Karia prosecuting said: "She was arrested in France and taken to the airport before extradition to Britain. She has been in custody since July 25. The two addresses in Chelsea Harbour were raided and £25,000 worth of designer handbags were found at the properties. From this large sum of money stolen from this benefit fraud, she did live a lavish lifestyle and squandered that large quantity of money."

Judge Michael Grieve QC jailed her for a total of four years for all 21 offences.

He said: "After entering those three guilty pleas, you fled to the continent of Europe between February and May 2015 until you were arrested in Paris in July 2017. The methods used to commit these frauds involved careful planning and an ever increasing degree of complexity, involving false names and forged bank documents. This fraud continued for a six-year period against some 20 councils and in addition to the £244,000 you claimed, a total of £65,000 in unsuccessful claims were made.

"The nature of this offending was fraudulent from the outset and committed to fund your lavish and extremely comfortable lifestyle. This was not a case of a person in dire financial straits submitting to temptation and making fraudulent claims to get by. You committed these offences to fund your very affluent lifestyle on holidays, restaurants and designer handbags and clothes.

"You had a flat in Chelsea paid for by your fraudulent activities and your son had all the material benefits he could want. Once discovered you could not face up to the consequences and you fled to mainland Europe until you were brought back. There's very little evidence you have shown any remorse before you went to ground in Paris."

Amisi was also ordered to pay a statutory victim surcharge and the Department of Work and Pensions will seek a court order to reclaim the money stolen.

Source with pictures

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