12 Jan 2018

Illegal immigrant in £32k benefit fraud

A judge has slammed the Home Office for failing to deport an illegal immigrant who entered the UK on the back of a lorry to illegally claim £32,000 in benefits.

Kerim Koroglu, 49, pocketed handouts he was not entitled to collect for more than six years after he sneaked into the country in a lorry on 30 August 2002.

Koroglu used a fake ‘leave to remain’ letter to swindle £32,549 in housing and council tax benefits from Hackney Council.

The false document, described by prosecutor Will Martin as ‘very convenient’, purported to grant Koroglu asylum in 2004, enabling him to claim the welfare and bring his wife and two children over from Turkey.

The Alawi Kurd, representing himself, said he had no idea where the letter came from.

But he was convicted of benefit fraud by an Old Bailey jury and jailed for 30 months. Koroglu now faces deportation after living illegally in the UK for more than 15 years.

Before sentencing the fraudster the judge, Mr Recorder Oliver Sells, QC, grilled Heather Laing, an immigration officer, on how he was able to use an unsigned letter to dupe the authorities.

The judge said: ‘It became clear during the trial that this defendant had, to use your words, exhausted his appeals by the end of 2002 and as you say in your statement he should have left voluntarily at that stage but where people do not do so – putting it bluntly – he should have been deported.’

Ms Laing, said: ‘Mr Keroglu came into the system when it was very reliant on paper and human investigation, his file became lost in the system and I think that is set out in the witness statement. What became of the file at the time I am not aware of but it did come back into light.’

The judge said: ‘None of what happened thereafter would have if the Home Office had carried out its function properly. That is the point of enquiry into this case, it is not simply an administrative failure. As we have seen in these courts only too frequently, the long term consequences and the substantial costs to the public that should never have been – and still public funds are being expended.

‘It is also apparent that there were other opportunities between 2002 and 2012 when these matters finally came to light, which were missed by the Home Office. The document itself, I do not know if you have seen it – no, I would like you to see it, this is a letter purportedly dated 14 February 2004 to this defendant in a form with which I would expect you’re familiar.

‘This letter was for him a very important document indeed with enormous consequences for people in his family, but also for the public – but it is not sent by anybody with a name, there is no signature to refer to and no author to verify – why is that? It is opening the way for fraud isn’t it? It is making life for dishonest people much easier. There were a number of opportunities to assess this letter but it wasn’t in fact assessed for many years.’

Koroglu smuggled himself into the country on the back of a truck in 2002 and then used the help of criminals to obtain the false documentm the court heard.

Prosecutor Will Martin said: ‘Mr Koroglu came to this country seeking asylum in 2002, he made an application as a refugee in August 2002 which was refused. He took the matter to appeal, the appeal was not successful and by the end of 2002 Mr Koroglu had no appeal rights left – they were exhausted. It was at that point that Mr Keroglu had no basis to be in this country.

‘In 2006, Mr Koroglu made an application to the London Borough of Hackney for council tax benefit and housing tax benefit.

‘These applications it became clear were made on the back of a false ‘leave to remain’ letter that letter was dated 2004, but it is likely it came into his possession in 2006 because it was in the spring of 2006 that Mr Keroglu started to bring his wife and two children over on the back of the same document with an application for visas made in Istanbul.

‘Mr Koroglu maintains and still maintains that he did not know that the letter was false despite correspondence from the Home Office on multiple occasions.

‘On 29 May 2012 Mr Koroglu presented the document to the investigating officer with the intention of misleading the London Borough of Hackney.

‘In subsequent interviews under caution he sought to blame the Home Office and Home Office administration and that was the account which was maintained and disbelieved at the three day trial in November.’

Koroglu, a married painter and decorator, has three children living in the country – one of whom was born here.

He was convicted of swindling £27,289 in housing benefit and £5,100 in council tax benefit, as well as using false documentation after an Old Bailey trial.

The judge said: ‘I have given anxious consideration as to whether it would be right in this case to suspend any sentence. I should be failing in my duty to the public if I took such a course, these are serious offences.

‘They are coercive of public trust in the benefits system and they are very difficult to detect.

‘The Home Office had both the power and the information which they should and could have used to remove you from this country – their failure to do so reflects upon their conduct at the time.

‘But in the final analysis you and those who supported that document where the architects of these actions, while the Home Office could have prevented you by removing you, you have a responsibility to obey the law even if you were here illegally.’

Koroglu, from Shoreditch, was sentenced to 30 months for obtaining property by deception and 24 months concurrent for obtaining the false documentation.

He denied the offences.


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