Showing posts with label confiscation order. Show all posts
Showing posts with label confiscation order. Show all posts

8 Nov 2016

Tax credit fraud leads to compensation order

A mum-of-three who cheated the benefits system out of more than £32,000 was ordered to hand it back.

Joanne Crumbleholme was jailed for 24 weeks in July after admitting being knowingly concerned in fraudulently obtaining tax credits.

Liverpool Crown Court that she had begun her claim legitimately after splitting up with her husband Paul Crumbleholme. When she got back together with her husband, who was working, she did not reveal this and carried on claiming.

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said that between April 2010 and September last year Crumbleholme, who has no previous convictions, fraudulently obtained £32,472.

The 45-year-old of Edmund Drive, Leigh, re-appeared at court for a Proceeds of Crime Hearing and an out-of-court settlement was reached.

It was agreed that she had benefitted by £33,836, allowing for inflation, and has realisable assets, involving her share of the family home and a Nissan car, totalling £35,000.

The judge, Recorder Michael Blakey, imposed a confiscation and a compensation order in the sum of £32,472 to HMRC. If the money is not repaid in three months she faces 18 months imprisonment in default.

Source with picture

19 Oct 2016

Liverpool couple jailed for £100k benefits fraud

A couple were jailed after ‘taking away’ more than £100,000 in benefits ‘from people who really need help’.

Alexander Pearson, 61, and his partner Veronica Stuart, 64, from Kirkby, scammed tax payers and cheated the system for almost 12 years before being found out by Knowsley Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The pair pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to the offences that ended in July 2014.

In total, the couple claimed almost £45,000 in housing benefit, more than £52,000 in income support, more than £10,000 in council tax benefits and a further £1,300 in council tax reductions. All the money claimed was over and above their entitlement and they were both sentenced to a year in prison.

Confiscation proceedings will also now begin to recover some of the overpayments.

A Knowsley Council spokesman said: “This is an excellent outcome. By claiming benefits they are not entitled to, fraudsters take money away from people who really need help. Our message is clear – we will prosecute and take action against those who are fraudulently claiming benefits.”

Knowsley Council said people can report those suspected of benefit fraud by calling 0800 0730 532. There is no need to give a name and calls are treated in confidence.


28 Sep 2016

Confiscation order eventually granted

A woman who wrongly claimed nearly £43,000 in benefits must now pay nearly £60,000.

Watford mother Bushra Begum, 72, and her daughter Tabassum, 42, claimed more than £185,000 in benefits from Watford Borough Council - more here and here - note these are from 2015.

The pair had more than £260,000 hidden away in 100 different accounts but continued claiming benefits for many years.

Bushra Begum has failed to repay her £42,666 share of the fraudulent claims to Watford Borough Council and the DWP. This is despite being handed an 18-month suspended sentence in April 2015.

However, after successful confiscation proceedings, she has been ordered to pay £59,664.73 to the two organisations by Monday October 3. If she fails to pay this amount she will be sent to prison for 18 months.


14 Jun 2016

Light sentence for wife - but now couple lose their home sale proceeds

A crime couple from Bromley have lost their family home after being ordered to pay almost half a million pounds earned from drug dealing and benefit fraud.

Matthew Harrod, 43, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February 2014 after pleading guilty to being concerned in the supply of drugs.

His wife Fiona Kelly, 45, was given an 18-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to benefit fraud totalling £60,000 and money laundering.

Over two years since their conviction, a judge at Kingston Crown Court made proceeds of crime act confiscation orders last Thursday, forcing the couple to repay £490,667.

The orders included £362,000 left over from the sale of their former home in Hayes Lane, as well as £107,000 from bank accounts, a car and £3,500 cash which was seized from the flat where Harrod was arrested.

Officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) carried out a financial investigation to identify the profits the couple made from their criminal activities, taking out restraint orders for assets such as bank accounts and their luxury home.

NCA branch commander Oliver Higgins said: “Harrod and his wife made hundreds of thousands of pounds from their criminality and were able to enjoy a lavish lifestyle as a result. The NCA will use all its powers to pursue not just the criminals themselves but the money they make from their offending.”


22 Jan 2016

Benefit cheat told to pay £277k

A Birmingham benefits cheat hit with a mammoth £277,000 bill has failed to get a discount after losing a court challenge. (h/t Dave)

Kulvinder Singh, 55, from Handsworth, raked in more than £32,000 in jobseekers payments between 2001 and 2008 – despite secretly having almost a quarter of million pounds in the bank.

The fraudster’s covert cash came to light in September 2009 when his finances were investigated as part of a case at Birmingham Crown Court.

Singh pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances, and was handed a suspended sentence.

But now he has lost a challenge at London’s Criminal Appeal Court to appeal against a confiscation order for £277,000, handed to him in 2010.

At the hearing he asked Mr Justice Foskett and Judge Jeremy Carey to reduce his crushing bill.

Investigations into his finances revealed another £241,000 – on top of the dishonestly claimed benefits – which a judge ruled he could not account for honestly. He had put in no tax returns to explain the £241,000 and the crown court judge had deemed it the proceeds of “criminal conduct”.

His lawyers argued that after paying back every penny of the £32,000, the confiscation order of more than seven times the amount was ‘simply wrong’.

They added that at least £140,000 of the money came from the legitimate sale of a £280,000 house.

It was also argued that Singh had lost the money from the house sale after falling victim to an “identity fraud”.

But Judge Carey ruled that Singh had left it too late to challenge the bill.

“There is no reason why time should be extended,” he said. “The application is refused.”

Singh has already served a term of imprisonment in default of payment of the confiscation order – but could face more time behind bars if he still fails to pay up.


12 Jan 2016

Judge orders Spain to enforce benefit fraud debt

Fugitive Tyneside tax cheat Bobby Webber faces being stripped of his luxury Tenerife bolthole after a landmark legal ruling.

Club singer Webber is on the run after failing to pay back a penny of the thousands he illegally pocketed in UK benefits while living on the Spanish island.

After he failed to comply with a Proceeds of Crime Act order, a warrant was issued for his arrest in 2011 but Webber has still not paid up and remains at large.

In the past his assets could have been safe abroad but new regulations mean UK authorities now have the power to get other European member states to enforce confiscation orders.

Now, after what prosecutors say is the first application of its kind, a judge has granted permission for the Spanish authorities to chase up 73-year-old Webber’s ill-gotten gains.

Judge Paul Sloan QC, at Newcastle Crown Court, said: “These provisions enable confiscations made by the UK to be enforced by other member states.”

Webber owns a luxury villa in the Amarilla Golf complex, on Tenerife, the proceeds of which would be more than enough to pay back the £75,000 he owes.

Judge Sloan said: “The available amount, which included the property in Spain, was sufficient to meet the benefit figure and a confiscation order was made in the sum of £75,000. It has not been satisfied and the defendant is at large and has not been traced.”

Prosecutor David Comb said the successful application was the first of its type since European regulations were brought into force in the UK in 2014.

Properties held in other European countries can be confiscated by the UK authorities with the help of other member states if they are the proceeds of an offence or were used in an offence.

Webber was made the subject of a confiscation order in November 2009 after staging a five-figure benefit fraud from his Spanish home. But more than six years after he was jailed for 51 weeks, he has failed to hand over a single penny of the confiscation order. A warrant for his arrest issued in August 2011 remains outstanding.

In an interview in 2014 from his Tenerife home, Webber claimed he had been forced to accept benefit fraud allegations to protect his family and said: “If I come back to England I’ll be locked-up.”

At the time he claimed his famous bar, the Penny Farthing in Tenerife’s Los Cristianos, which he has owned for 30 years, had been closed for four months as he struggled to make a living. Webber also said his luxury £410,000 three-bedroom villa in the upmarket Amarilla Golf complex was on the market but he had been unable to offload it. And he said his marriage had collapsed and he was desperate to return to Gateshead but was “stuck” in Spain.

Webber, previously of Barmston Court, Washington, said: “I can’t pay the money, I’m divorced and I’ve had nothing but problems. I’m sitting here with no cash. I’m stuck here, the house has been up for sale since I came back. You can’t sell anything here because no-one has any money. I’m in a Catch-22, I’m stuck. It’s caused me hell. I’ve got family in England but if I go over there I’m going to get locked-up. I’ve not paid the bill. The Penny Farthing is closed, it’s been closed for four months. I’ve got no money coming in. The whole thing has upset me, everything has upset me from start to finish. I don’t need this at my age.”

Webber said he served just three months of his 51-week jail term in Durham Prison before being electronically monitored on his release.

After he finished his sentence he fled to Spain. Clips posted on YouTube from 2013 show the former club singer entertaining crowds.

During the original hearing in 2009 he admitted four offences of failing to disclose information in relation to benefits and one offence of money laundering. The total value of the offences was £75,000.

Webber had claimed council tax benefit, housing benefits, income support and pension credit while he had a home in Tenerife. He admitted failing to notify a change of circumstances, deliberately hiding his Spanish property to get £69,000 in benefits. Following his conviction he was told he must pay back the money within six months or serve 21 months in default. But that ruling - in 2009 - has fallen on deaf ears and he has failed to pay back the cash.


5 Nov 2015

Benefit cheat gets £13k confiscation order

Following a criminal conviction for Benefit Fraud, the court has imposed a £13,000 confiscation order on a Sudbury resident.

In May 2015, Miss Keirderin Knight, 45 years of age, from Gt Cornard in Sudbury appeared before Ipswich Crown Court and was found guilty of dishonestly claiming more than £13,000 in Housing and Council Tax Benefit from Babergh District Council.

Keirderin Knight began claiming Housing and Council Tax Benefit from March 2008. During her claim to benefits it was discovered she had capital she had not declared and that she had started work for Suffolk County Council in March 2012.

After a fraud investigation, officers at the Council identified that the claims put forward since 2011 were inaccurate and Miss Knight had been claiming benefits to which she was not entitled.

On 30 October 2015, Ipswich Crown Court imposed a confiscation order of £13,000 giving Miss Knight three months to repay this amount to Babergh District Council or face jail.


26 Oct 2015

Benefit thief told to repay £200,000

A woman must pay back over £200,000 following an investigation by Thurrock Council’s counter fraud team into benefit fraud.

Of that, over £46,000 must go to the council to repay benefits fraudulently received and over £43,000 to be used by the council to fight and investigate similar cases.

Eniah Nhika, 43, of Belmont Road, Grays, a Zimbabwean national, first applied for housing and council tax benefit from Thurrock Council in December 2013.

Following an investigation, she was arrested at home and a number of items were seized that later became evidence in the case. Council financial investigators obtained an order from the Crown Court restraining her assets in December 2013.

The court heard how, during the investigation, officers uncovered evidence of benefit fraud dating back to 1999 when Nhika first claimed benefits from Hackney Council.

Officers also identified benefit fraud offences, identity document offences, and a fraudulent right to buy purchase of a Hackney Council flat leading to a Magistrates’ Court summons in May 2014.

She admitted nine out of ten offences at Basildon Magistrates Court and the matter was committed to Basildon Crown Court for sentencing where she received a suspended sentence and was ordered to complete unpaid community work.

The council’s confiscation investigation discovered Nhika was receiving money from rental income in breach of the restraint order, leading further summonses and in July this year she was convicted of contempt of court and received a further four months suspended sentence.

A determined fraudster who doesn't care. But the system seems determined not to give her proper punishment.

Following the detailed confiscation investigation, on October 14 at Basildon Crown Court the following confiscation order was made: benefit from criminal conduct £371,173.72; available amount: £216,153; confiscation order £216,153.

Of that figure £32,061.17 goes to HMRC; £22,160.84 to the DWP; and £46,593 to Thurrock Council. Judge Jonathan Lodge allowed the maximum three months to pay and if it is not paid, Nhika faces a further 30-month prison sentence in addition to the sentence already handed down for the fraud offences.

HHJ Lodge expressed his thanks to Thurrock Council’s for the quality and professionalism of its investigation and its presentation of the facts.

The remaining money goes into the Home Office Asset Recovery Incentivisation Scheme and Thurrock Council will receive a further 18.75% of it as the investigating agency, and 18.75% as the Proceeds of Crime Act agency – funds which, by law, has to be used to “fight crime”.


22 Jul 2015

Confiscation order on benefit thief at first hearing

A fraudster claimed £22,000 in housing benefit and council tax overpayments over four years.

Glennda Rhodes, of Glenmere, Vange, admitted 11 offences of knowingly failing to notify her change in circumstances contrary to the Social Security Administration Act 1992 at Basildon Magistrates Court this week.

The 61-year-old admitted failing to declare savings, additional income from a job, her occupational pension and declaring that she was living with a partner.

Magistrates sentenced her to a 12-month community order, including 100 hours of unpaid work.

She was subject to a restraint order on her bank accounts under the Proceeds of Crime Act and a confiscation order was made.

She was also ordered to pay £3,000 costs within six months.

Cllr Stuart Sullivan, cabinet member responsible for resources, said: “This is an alarming case of fraud because of the amount involved and the fact it went on for nearly four years. Basildon Council takes these cases very seriously and will vigorously pursue those who commit these crimes. We will also push for the maximum sentence to act as a deterrent to others.”


2 Apr 2015

8 months means 3 months as confiscation hearing stalled

A benefit cheat who claimed more than £20,000 despite having a fortune in a Swiss bank account has been released from prison after just three months.

Mother of two Caroline Foxley, from the Cotswolds, was sentenced to eight months in prison on January 19 for claiming benefits while she had about £250,000 stashed in a Swiss bank account.

The 59-year-old, who previously lived in Chipping Campden but is now of no fixed address, had insisted that the money belonged to the father of her children, Dr Kurt Mayer, and could not be touched due to his alleged links with the Mafia in Italy.

She was released from prison on March 27 and attended Gloucester Crown Court today for a confiscation hearing at which the prosecution alleged she had benefited from crime by about £275,000.

However, prosecutor Stephen Mooney said the Crown still has no information about how much money remains in her Swiss bank account so the court cannot yet rule on exactly how much will be confiscated from her under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Mr Mooney said that if she does not provide evidence about how much remains in her account the court can make an order confiscating the whole sum of about £275,000 from her.

Oh just get on with it. She obviously has reasons for not co-operating.

He reminded the court that the prosecution case at Mrs Foxley's trial last year was that she had put “something in the region of £250,000” into a Swiss bank account while claiming benefits and paying private school fees for her two children.

"The real issue now is how much money is left in the Swiss bank account," he said.

He said he understood that Oliver Wilmott, representing Mrs Foxley, had made “significant progress” in finding out how much is now in the account.

What does this mean?

Recorder Peter Towler agreed to adjourn the hearing until May 13 so that her Swiss bank assets can be discovered and an order made to confiscate the money.

In October last year a jury convicted Mrs Foxley of four offences of failing to notify Cotswold District Council of a change in her entitlement to benefits.

During the trial, Mr Mooney said: "She made a calm, calculated and rational decision to top up her already quite substantial income by making false claims for benefits. This is a thoroughly dishonest woman who decided to get money she knew she was not entitled to in the hope and expectation, and arrogance, that she would not be caught."

But these process-driven officials are still letting her take the law for a fool.


27 Oct 2014

Confiscation order for benefits thief

A fraudster who dishonestly claimed more than £40,000 in benefits has had a confiscation order made against his assets.

The order was granted last week at Minshull Street Crown Court against Gary Betts, 50, of Firswood.

It ordered Betts to repay £261,429, including the amount taken in benefits.

Betts was sentenced in 2013 to 10 months in prison for dishonestly claiming benefits totalling £43,777. He was convicted after failing to declare capital in excess of £16,000 and unexplained income going into his bank account.

The investigation found that he had claimed benefits for his family for almost 20 years, while his wife was driving a Range Rover costing over £50,000 and the family were living a luxurious lifestyle.

Betts had also been found in possession of 3,000 litres of diesel which was seized by Greater Manchester Police.

Following the conviction, Trafford Council staff conducted a confiscation investigation under Proceeds of Crime legislation and failing to fully repay this will see him facing a further three years in prison.


18 Jul 2014

Confiscation order against benefit thief

A benefit fraudster has been ordered to pay back £35,000 or face a longer term in prison. (h/t Dave)

Stephanie Osbourne, 68, from Immingham, was convicted of benefit fraud on December 6, after pleading guilty to four charges of dishonestly obtaining pension credit and council tax benefit totalling £31,389.

This followed a lengthy joint investigation between North East Lincolnshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions. On January 17, she was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison.

She had already repaid the council the overpaid council tax benefit but her pension credit over-payment remained outstanding. As a result, the DWP's Financial Investigation Unit conducted an inquiry, culminating in a Confiscation Hearing at Grimsby Crown Court, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Prior to the hearing, Osbourne agreed to repay £35,000 and the court ordered that she will be required to pay the money within six months or face a further prison sentence of up to 15 months – and she will still have to repay the £35,000.

Christine Caine, DWP fraud investigation manager for the North East, said:
Benefit fraud is a crime and we are dedicated to catching those who commit it. Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this cost the taxpayer money that should be used to help those in need. We are determined to find those who we suspect are cheating the system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils. If you suspect someone of benefit fraud, please call the Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854440 so we can continue to tackle the problem in your area.

4 Jun 2014

Judge says benefit thief untruthful

A former GMTV reporter who fraudulently claimed tens of thousands of pounds in housing benefits has been ordered to repay more than £100,000 after a judge said he ‘found it difficult to trust a word she said’.

Louise Port, 38, who worked on GMTV until 2006, broke down in tears as Southwark Crown Court heard how she swindled more than £70,000 in housing benefits while making money by renting out properties in London.

The judge today ordered the ex-girlfriend of former Scotland football manager Craig Brown to repay the money with interest after hearing how she spent the cash to pay off her credit card debts.

Port, who also failed to declare to authorities that she owned a two bedroom flat in Isleworth, Middlesex, was found guilty at a previous hearing of wrongly claiming £76,157.14 in housing benefit between September 2006 and August 2011.

She escaped prison because she suffers from epilepsy and was instead handed an 18-month suspended jail sentence and ordered to carry out 120 hours of community service after the judge ruled she had carried out ‘deliberate deception’.

Port has now been ordered to repay the £76,000 plus interest to City of Westminster Council, to which she also owes £10,000 in council tax.

Port, who attended court with her father Campbell, wept in the dock as the judge told her she must also repay £15,000 - half the prosecution costs to bring the case to court. It means she must repay a total of £106,000. (h/t Dave)

At the hearing at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Anthony Pitts said:
I must confess I find it very difficult to trust a word she says in terms of honesty. Of course she has had great difficulties in her life, but it is quite clear to me that she lied whenever it suited her to the jury with considerable front, and despite her sad personal problems the jury agreed. And I don’t believe again, I’m afraid, what I have heard from Miss Port.’
The former journalist, who has also worked for the BBC, has six months to pay or faces being jailed.

The judge said: ‘The period for this amount of money is up to two years imprisonment but I will pass a period of one year’s imprisonment in default of payment.’

The Scot, who now rents a flat in Charing Cross, central London, must sell the Isleworth flat she bought when she was 20 to repay the cash.

She had earlier told the court she could afford to pay back just £74,000 and tried to claim her father owned a 27 per cent of the property, which she bought in 1996 for £89,000. It has now more than trebled in price and is worth around £300,000.

However, Alexandra Ward, prosecuting, said that the £25,000 he gave her to buy it was ‘a gift from a father to daughter,’ not a registered investment, and accused Port of making it up to avoid paying back the full amount.

Port, who also worked for Radio 1, Radio 5 Live and read the sports news on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show, was convicted of four counts of housing benefit fraud - three of making dishonest representations to obtain benefit and one of failing to declare a change in circumstances.

At a sentencing hearing in February, the court heard how she failed to declare that she was receiving more than £1,000-a-month in rent from a flat that she owned near Canary Wharf.

It was also revealed she had £87,000 in equity on the property and was also receiving £1,150 a month from a property in the West End.

Port, who used to have long blonde hair but now sports a shaved head, today works in nightclubs and as a nursing assistant at University College Hospital to make ends meet.

In 2008, Port lost a £500,000 disability discrimination and unfair dismissal claim against GMTV after insisting she was forced out for refusing to work night shifts because of her epilepsy.

23 Apr 2014

More light sentences for benefit fraud

Yesterday we discussed light sentencing for benefit fraud. Today we look at three fresh examples (h/t to Dave for his contributions).

First, Samantha Buckley from Richmond, who helped herself to more than £70,000 in wrongly claimed benefits, claiming benefits as a single mother, despite living with her undeclared husband, who was in full-time employment.

She received 12 months’ custody, suspended for two years. She must also complete 240 hours of unpaid work, attend a 40-hour education and employment course and pay costs of £500, including a £100 victim surcharge.

A suspended sentence is just a warning not to offend again. The actual punishment she's received for a £70,000 fraud will take up 280 hours of her time and she has a bill of £600. Which doesn't seem a lot.

Stewart Lorains, from Saltburn, falsely claimed £24,505 in disability benefits over several years. Meanwhile he enjoyed success on the cricket field, and worked as a boxing coach and football referee. For this he got a four-month jail sentence - suspended for 12 months, so again just a warning. At least he has been ordered to repay £16,209, and it seems he'll have to sell his house. The judge warned that if he defaulted on the amount owing he would be jailed for 12 months.

Finally, one Andrew Mitchell, from Leicester, falsely claimed disability benefits of £35,793 while working as a delivery man. He was sentenced to a four month jail sentence - suspended for 12 months - plus supervision and curfew orders and £430 costs. Our old friend the suspended sentence again. Indeed, the judge said while Mitchell deserved to serve a prison sentence, it would be more helpful if he continued to work to repay his debts! So that's all right then, no real need for punishment.

After the case, astonishingly, DWP fraud area manager Roy Paul said it was “a good sentence”. No it's not, has anything bad happened to Mitchell?

He added that the DWP would pursue Mitchell through a civil court for the money. That's another thing that's wrong with the legal process. A confiscation order should be automatic when someone has been guilty of benefit fraud.

Harsh? Maybe. But it's an easy crime to commit and a hard crime to detect. So deterrence is essential.

Benefit thieves do it for the money. So hit them in the pocket. It was money that motivated them, and a financial penalty will help to deter them.

Everyone convicted of benefit fraud who doesn't go to prison should have to do unpaid work.

Benefit thieves should also have to repay twice what they've stolen, and should know they won't be eligible for any further benefits – including tax credits - until they have. A confiscation order should be automatic and immediate.

If you don't punish people who are convicted of an easy crime, the offence will continue to look attractive.

15 Apr 2014

Benefit thief has months to pay over £60,000

A benefit cheat from Slough was ordered to pay back more than £53,000 in overpaid benefits.

Sarah Darby deliberately hid the extent of her income from Slough Borough Council and received £49,134.41 in housing and council tax benefits between February 2007 and August 2012.

She failed to declare savings, child maintenance payments and the ownership of a property in Market Weighton in Yorkshire - for which she received up to £500 per month in rent.

Darby was ordered to pay £53,601.11 - the amount she falsely claimed, adjusted for inflation, less £2,069.83 she had already repaid - at a confiscation hearing at Reading Crown Court on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old of Eltham Avenue was given a ten-month jail term, suspended for two years, at Reading Crown Court on October 1 after she admitted fraud at an earlier hearing.

She was also given a 12-month supervision order and sentenced to 180 hours of community work.

“It’s rare that we come across anyone quite as brazen as Darby was - claiming the same benefits usually reserved for people who need help to keep a roof over their heads, while at the same time owning her own home and generating income from it," said Matthew Chugg, fraud investigations officer for the council. “It’s only right that she should face the consequences of her disgraceful actions.”

Darby could go to prison for 18 months if she doesn’t pay the full amount back within six months. She also has three months to pay £7,500 in costs to Slough Borough Council.

3 Mar 2014

Suspended sentence for £76k housing benefit fraud

Attractive Louise Port has had her prison sentence suspended after being found guilty of £76,000 housing benefit fraud.

The former GMTV the presenter failed to declare that she was receiving more than £1,000 a month in rent from a flat she owned near London’s Canary Wharf, in which she had an £87,000 stake. She was also receiving £1,150 a month from another property in central London’s West End.

It meant she wrongly received £76,157 in housing benefit between September 2006 and August 2011, which she used to pay off credit card debts.

Judge Anthony Pitts said:
You were something of a sad figure but the jury looked past that and judged the case on the evidence. The evidence was strong but you chose to fight it and you hoped to get a sympathetic jury. You displayed a good knowledge of the housing benefit rules and it was blindingly clear that you hid it (the property).

You are not someone who is wealthy. You were clearly in difficulty at the time you committed these offences. But they are serious offences in relation to housing benefit, which is designed to be tough to obtain if you have equity in property over £16,000. You used that to pay off credit card debts.

I have to sentence you for a prolonged and deliberate deception. Clearly a custodial sentence is inevitable, the only question is whether I can suspend it, that's the problem I have been wrestling with. You have been stricken by an illness which is appalling in the context of your life.

I have only had a glimpse in this trial of who you are - a bright, outgoing woman. Of course, the epilepsy you have suffered from has changed your life and that is a fact of significance which I will take into account. There is no doubt a prison sentence would be extremely difficult although the public may say deserved for this prolonged period of deception. I can tell you now my initial reaction was you would have to go into custody but I have changed my mind. I sentence you to 18 months suspended for two years as an act of mercy.

I don't think you would have ever committed offences like these if your life had remained on track. It's an act of mercy as I think you would have suffered hugely. But you are fit enough to do some unpaid work, there has to be a penalty aspect to this sentence.
Port is subject to a three-month curfew from 9pm-6am, excluding Fridays, so that she can work in a night club.

Shaven headed and dressed in all black, Port wept as the sentence was passed. She embraced sobbing relatives in the public gallery as she was released from the dock.

But where is our money? The court should be able to make a confiscation order at the same hearing.

20 Feb 2014

Light sentence for benefit thief wife - eventually

A Bromley couple who lived off the proceeds of drug trafficking and benefit fraud have been sentenced.

Matthew Harrod, aged 43, of Hayes Lane, was jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty at Kingston Crown Court to being concerned in the supply of drugs.

His wife Fiona Kelly, aged 45, of Hayes Lane, was given an 18-month sentence suspended for two years and ordered to do 140 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to benefit fraud totalling £60,000 and money laundering.

That seems pretty minimal.

Harrod, who had links to criminals across the country, brokered the delivery of three kilos of cocaine from a network in Manchester to one in London.

The couple had not declared any income since 2003 and paid for extensive renovations at their Hayes Lane home.

Kelly also drove a £50,000 convertible Mercedes Benz car.

They were targeted during a surveillance operation by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and were arrested in March 2011.

So it took a long time to get to court.

They now face being stripped of their criminal assets.

NCA branch commander Oliver Higgins said:
Harrod had been involved in drug trafficking for many years. He actively used counter-surveillance techniques but we were able to link him conclusively to a cocaine seizure that led to his downfall. Our investigation does not stop here though as we are working with partners to strip the couple of their criminal assets. We have restrained money from bank accounts and property. A confiscation hearing will now take place.
And so it slowly grinds on.

29 Jan 2014

Croydon repossesses benefit thief's house & announces keys amnesty

We last looked at the doings of Theresa Aldous back in September 2012. The law grinds exceeding slow, but now, 16 months later, we have an update from Croydon Council (h/t Dave).

A jailed grandmother who cheated more than £42,000 in benefits has lost her council home.

A district judge has given the council the go-ahead to repossess the home of Theresa Aldous (pictured here) in Kenley. And, at the Croydon Crown Court hearing on Wednesday, 22 January, he also ordered she pay back £8,673.65 rent arrears.

Aldous was sentenced to six months’ jail in April 2012, after she lied to the authorities to claim widow’s benefit, despite remarrying, and told further lies to claim housing benefit on a council house in which she no longer lived. The 64-year-old failed to tell the council she had moved out of the house and was letting her daughter live there as a sub-tenant, effectively rent-free. And when her husband died, she failed to disclose the £19,000 inheritance in her benefits application.

Council investigators found that Aldous had given the inheritance to her family, despite being told she owed the council and the DWP benefits she had falsely claimed.

In September 2012, a judge issued a confiscation order for the same amount following an investigation into her finances under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Yet she was sent back to prison for nine months on January 14 this year for failing to pay back the money.


As part of a drive to crack down on tenancy fraud, the council next month launches an amnesty to tenants illegally subletting their homes.

They will be allowed to hand back their keys anonymously during February, with the promise that no action will be taken against them by the council. The amnesty campaign is to warn people that illegal subletting is now a criminal offence punishable by a prison sentence and fine.

Councillor Dudley Mead, cabinet member for housing, said:
As we launch our amnesty campaign, this case illustrates that not only will fraudsters end up in jail, but they will lose their home too. Thanks to this court result, it means we have freed up a home for a family that really needs one.

24 Jan 2014

Benefit fraud couple get confiscation orders

A couple who ran an ironing business from their Selby home have received court Confiscations Orders in relation to convictions in 2012 for benefit fraud.

Mariola and Janusz Kostrzewa were handed the Confiscations Orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act in a hearing at York Crown Court on Thursday, January 16th.

The orders require Mariola to pay £166,831.54 and Janusz to pay £62,826.36. If found in default of the orders the couple could face imprisonment of up to 27 and 18 months respectively.

The original offences related to making false statements in order to fraudulently obtain benefits from Selby District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions. The crimes for which they were convicted date back as far as 2003.

An investigation was started after the couple were reported to the Department for Work and Pensions as living a ‘lifestyles not conducive to persons claiming benefits’.

Evidence was then obtained that showed that the couple were running The Iron Lady, a professional ironing service, from which they were taking an undeclared income.

Between May 2003 and March 2010, the Kostrzewas received Council Tax Benefit to the value of £9,364.45 and Income Support and Jobseeker Allowance totalling £62,933.88 that they were not entitled to.