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29 Aug 2019

Benefit fraudster already had suspended sentence

A serial benefits cheat who fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds could be sent to jail - but a judge is worried for the future of her children.

Parveen Akhtar was due to be sentenced on August 27 after admitting two charges of making a false statement in order to obtain benefits from the Department of Work and Pensions.

However, speaking at Stafford Crown Court, Judge Jonathan Salmon raised issues about the care of her five children under the age of 16.

Another daughter, 21, has offered to care for them, but the judge was concerned as she has a full-time job and her own child.

Addressing Akhtar, he said:
Make no bones about it, as I have told you before and repeated, the seriousness of these offences crosses the custody threshold and it is a breach of a suspended sentence. 
You committed these further offences during a period of that suspended sentence. 
In order to make a decision (on the sentence), I need to know what will happen to the children if an immediate custodial sentence is imposed, including the caring ability of your 21-year-old daughter.
The judge asked social services to gather information on how the children would be cared for if Akhtar was jailed.

She answers to unconditional bail until her next court appearance on October 11, when she is likely to be sentenced.

Akhtar's first offence was committed on March 10, 2016, when the 43-year-old claimed £3,730.80 in Carers' Allowance, saying she was caring for her nephew full time.

But she failed to mention she had a paid job as a carer at Carden Bank care home, in Belvedere Road, Burton.

The second was on November 11, 2017, when Akhtar applied for Employment and Support Allowance without declaring she had an interest in four properties.

No money was paid out for the second offence as she was still under investigation for the first.

When making the fraudulent claims, Akhtar was subject to a suspended sentence for claiming incapacity benefits and failing to tell the Department of Work and Pensions when she returned to work. She was sentenced for that offence on February 24, 2016.

Judge Salmon asked for a Proceeds of Crime application to be completed before sentencing to recoup the money Akhtar had fraudulently claimed.

The court heard she had an interest in three properties with her husband at the time of the offences, as well as another she is now living in.

Akhtar is now the sole owner of one of the homes she previously owned with her husband.

Her 21-year-old daughter lives there and the house in mortgage arrears, but there is equity in the property.

Another has been sold and the third now belongs solely to her husband. Akhtar is not currently claiming any benefits.

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