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Showing posts with label councillor benefit thief. Show all posts
Showing posts with label councillor benefit thief. Show all posts

26 Oct 2019

Councillor committed social housing fraud

A former east London councillor has been warned he could face jail for a decade-long housing fraud that was uncovered while he was in office.

Muhammad Harun, 49, remained on the Tower Hamlets social housing list while owning a property within the borough and another in neighbouring Barking.

Harun, a solicitor, cost the council about £125,000 which could have been spent on housing vulnerable families for the duration of the con.

It only came to light seven months after he was elected as a Tower Hamlets councillor in May last year. He resigned his seat during an inquiry.

Harun admitted two offences of housing fraud last month and was told by a judge yesterday there were “no promises” he will be spared jail next month.

Snaresbrook crown court heard Harun had claimed assistance under the Homelessness Act 2002 after being evicted in 2006.

The next year he bought a house in Lancaster Avenue, Barking, for £230,000 while still registered in social housing in Tower Hamlets.

Judge English warned him he faces jail because of the length of time the fraud went on for and the number of housing claims he made.

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21 Sep 2018

Councillor committed benefit fraud

A former politician who defrauded the public purse of thousands of pounds has been given a suspended jail term.

Former Fylde councillor Albert Pounder, 74, who represented the Conservative party, claimed housing and disability benefits he was not entitled to, lying on a claim form that walking short distances made him "breathless". But under secret surveillance he was seen walking unaided, folding and carrying a table, at Staining Field Day in 2015.

Judge Beverley Lunt, sitting at Preston Crown Court, imposed 26 weeks in jail but agreed to suspend it for a year. However, for the next three months the disgraced politician will be subject to an electronically tagged curfew. He must also pay a £115 surcharge.

Pounder had denied claiming £10,422,60 in disability living allowance between August 2014 and May 2016, and £467.23 of housing benefit from Fylde Council - the authority he represented - between April 2016 and May 2016.

But jurors at Preston Crown Court found him guilty of two charges of benefit fraud following his trial, agreeing he dishonestly failed to notify the authorities about his true mobility and care needs.

Pounder represented the village of Staining and was made portfolio holder on Fylde Council for customer and operational services before retiring on health grounds last year.

The court previously heard he has been in receipt of DLA since 1996 and was receiving the high rate mobility component of £57.45 per week and a middle rate care component of £55.10. In a DLA form in 1995 Mr Pounder said walking short distances made him "breathless", and he needed to "rest to regain my breath". He said he could only walk 50 yards before he felt severe discomfort, needed assistance getting out of the bath, and with washing his hair, and sometimes needed help climbing stairs. Suspicious DWP officers, authorised to carry out surveillance, spotted him walking up steps to the Town Hall without any walking aid.

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1 Aug 2018

Benefit fraud case takes nearly 3 years to reach court

A disgraced politician has been found guilty of claiming thousands in housing and disability benefits he was not entitled to.

Former Fylde councillor Albert Pounder, 74, who represented the Conservative party, had denied claiming £10,422,60 in disability living allowance between August 2014 and May 2016, and £467.23 of housing benefit from Fylde Council - the authority he represented - between April 2016 and May 2016.

But jurors at Preston Crown Court found him guilty of two charges of benefit fraud following his trial.

Pounder represented the village of Staining and was made portfolio holder on Fylde Council for customer and operational services before retiring on health grounds last year.

He dishonestly failed to notify the authorities about his true mobility and care needs.

The court previously heard he has been in receipt of DLA since 1996 and was receiving the high rate mobility component of £57.45 per week and a middle rate care component of £55.10.

In a DLA form in 1995 Mr Pounder said walking short distances made him “breathless”, and he needed to “rest to regain my breath”. He said he could only walk 50 yards before he felt severe discomfort, and that he needed assistance getting out of the bath, and with washing his hair, and sometimes needed help climbing stairs.

Surveillance was also conducted at the Staining Village field day in September 2015 at which he was seen walking 200 yards without help before folding and carrying a table.

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Surveillance was conducted nearly three years ago.

29 Nov 2017

Former Labour councillor was benefit thief

An ex-Labour council leader who was secretly filmed building a shed on his allotment while claiming he could walk 'zero metres for zero minutes' has been spared prison.

A judge told Robert Woodbridge that his position as an ex-councillor meant he was 'not your average benefit fraudster' and that he had betrayed the people he once represented.

The 59-year-old, of Kent, received disability living allowance after he stated his pain from inflammatory arthritis was so extreme he needed care seven days a week, could not venture out alone, and even struggled to use a TV remote control.

But with the help of surveillance work by the Department of Work and Pensions, a jury took just 20 minutes to see through his lies.

The undercover footage revealed Woodbridge was not only able to stroll around his neighbourhood, but also push a wheelbarrow on his allotment and saw wood for his shed.

He was also filmed comfortably pulling a vehicle trailer around a parked car and onto his driveway, despite telling the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) he would 'stumble and trip six out of seven days'.

The married father of two was seen walking to and from his vehicle on numerous occasions outside his house, always with a walking stick in one hand but carrying shopping bags, fold-up camping chairs, water containers, a cool box and broom.

Woodbridge also enjoyed strolls along roads and up and down flights of steps, with one solo walk lasting 230 metres.

He denied being a benefits cheat, telling a court the DWP officers had filmed him on 'good days' when he 'overdosed' on painkillers.

But Woodbridge, who once headed Swanley Town Council in Kent, was convicted of dishonestly failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between August 12 2015 and January 26 last year.

Imposing a suspended jail term of four months for a year, Judge David Griffith-Jones QC said his dishonesty was 'quite brazen'.

The judge also dismissed Woodbridge's suggestions he had been always been filmed on good days after taking overdoses as not only an extraordinary coincidence but also 'absurd and fanciful'.

'You were a man of some standing in the local community. You had been a councillor for many years and in your position within the community it may be said that you were, or should have been, something of a role model to others,' added Judge Griffith-Jones.

'By your actions you have betrayed those who were entitled to look up to and respect you.'

Maidstone Crown Court in Kent heard he first started claiming DLA in 1997 but it was his renewal form completed in 2013 which led to an investigation two years later.

Woodbridge, a councillor for 16 years, was paid at a higher rate of £140 a week after he stated he was in severe pain every day from the moment he woke, and relied on walking sticks and a variety of support braces for his neck, hands, wrists and knees.

In a detailed claim form he also stated he could not even use a TV remote, struggled to turn on his computer, could not bend or lift and even needed help to attend council meetings.

But prosecutor Edmund Fowler said he failed to 'promptly' notify the DWP there had been an improvement in his condition, as captured by the surveillance investigation filmed over several months in 2015.

Woodbridge falsely obtained a total overpayment of £5,869.

But he told police after his arrest that he had 'good days and bad days', with his severity of pain and ability to move fluctuating.

'The Crown say it was rather convenient that on each day he was filmed he was having a good day,' said Mr Fowler.

'What you can see in the footage is a very different set of circumstances to that set out on his claim form. When there is a change in circumstances there is a duty to inform the DWP. The duty is to give a prompt notification of any change. The Crown say the defendant acted dishonestly in all this.'

Mr Fowler added Woodbridge's original claim for DLA was genuine, as was the renewal application form in 2013.

But he told the court: 'The case is about what happened subsequently because it came to light his mobility and care needs had improved, and he had failed to declare the change in circumstances to the DWP as he was required to do.'

Woodbridge, who lives with his wife in Swanley, was paid a higher rate of DLA on the basis he needed help around the clock and had stated he was 'virtually unable to walk'.

'He said he could walk zero metres for zero minutes before feeling severe pain, the pain started as soon as he got up, walking was slow and poor,' said Mr Fowler.

'He used sticks and had difficulty walking every day. He said he stumbled, tripped and fell often, six out of seven days, and needed someone with him when he was outside. Pain was always there, he said. He suffered from severe pain in his knees and ankles nearly every time he walked and was unable to stand alone.'

Woodbridge also stated he needed help to use the toilet, would fall to the ground with sharp pain, and took 15 minutes to climb his stairs at home.

'I want someone with me when I go out to be sure I'm safe in case I fall over or need help to go the the toilet,' he wrote in his renewal form. Most days are all the same because the pain is always there, and made worse by movement. The pain is extreme.'

Woodbridge, who stood for the Liberal Democrats in local and county elections last year, was covertly filmed outside his home on nine days between August and November 2015.

On one occasion the officers followed him driving his Peugeot alone to his allotment where they captured him loading equipment and his walking stick into a wheelbarrow before pushing it away.

Playing a compilation of the footage to the jury the prosecutor said: 'From what could be observed by the officers it appears he was building a shed - sawing and hammering while at the allotment. You can see he used a foot to steady the plank of wood as he was sawing.'

However Woodbridge maintained in court that his health did not improve in 2015, and he said it had continued to deteriorate since.

He told the jury the aluminium trailer he was seen pulling was in fact lighter than a baby's pushchair, and that he was always assisted at his allotment by friends, comparing it to an 'afternoon tea club' where he did little work.

Asked about one allotment visit he said: 'It was a good day and I had taken Tramadol, paracetamol and whatever I could to get me through the day. It was stupid, it was reckless, it was daft, because I could have ended up killing myself but no one wants to be disabled. You want to live a reasonably normal life but it is very difficult to do that when you are completely wracked with pain. I don't want to be stuck in bed 24/7 or in an armchair doing nothing.'

Woodbridge added he was so grateful for receiving benefits and having his home adapted that he became a councillor in 1999 to 'give something back to the local community'.

28 Oct 2017

Former council leader convicted of benefit fraud

A former Labour town council leader was exposed as a disability benefit cheat after falsely claiming he could walk “zero metres for zero minutes” because of severe pain.

Department of Work and Pensions investigators filmed Robert Woodbridge carrying out everyday tasks seemingly with ease.

On several occasions he was seen carrying items to his car, driving, walking up and down steep steps, pulled a trailer and even building a shed at his allotment.

Woodbridge, who later stood in elections for the Green Party and Liberal Democrats, denied dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances, claiming he had good days and bad days, but he was convicted by a jury in just 20 minutes.

The 58-year-old former Swanley Town Council leader, who suffered from inflammatory arthritis, claimed a higher rate of disability living allowance he was not entitled to, Maidstone Crown Court was told.

Prosecutor Edmund Fowler said Woodbridge initially made a legitimate claim for the allowance in 1997. But after he renewed his claim in December 2013 he received a higher rate “care component” paid on the basis he needed help both day and night and a higher rate mobility component payable on the basis he was virtually unable to walk.

“We are not questioning the basis of his initial application,” said Mr Fowler. “This case is about what happened subsequently, because it came to light that his mobility and care needs had improved. He failed to declare a change of circumstances to the DWP, as required.”

As a result, he received an overpayment of £3,354 between August 12 2015 and January 26 last year.

Mr Fowler said Woodbridge’s renewal form stated a number of things that no longer applied.

“He said he could walk zero metres for zero minutes before feeling severe pain,” he told a jury of eight men and four women. “The pain started as soon as he got up and started walking. He used sticks to walk. He stumbled, tripped and fell often. His days were mostly the same as the pain was always there. He suffered pain in his knees and ankles when he walked and was unable to stand for long.

“The Crown say there was a change in those circumstances. He talks of aids, handrails on stairs, pain and discomfort in his wrists and knees, walking sticks to help walk in and out of doors.”

Woodbridge stated: “Pain and discomfort starts when I start walking as soon as I get up. Walking is extremely poor. I can only walk with the support of sticks. I have sharp pain in my knees and ankles which cause me to fall.”

He said he needed help to get up and to go to the toilet. He needed help seven days a week as the pain was always there. He could not get in and out of bed on his own and it took him about 15 minutes to get down the stairs.

Woodbridge, who attended council meetings twice a week, said he could not use the TV remote control.

Mr Fowler said when surveillance was carried out investigators saw Woodbridge appear to walk without a stick, crossing roads, climbing up to particular places and spending time apparently independently. In a film clip he was shown putting his walking stick into a wheelbarrow.

“It appears he was able to build a shed sawing and hammering while at his allotment, using his foot to steady a plank as he was sawing,” Mr Fowler told the jury of eight men and four women. “You can see there was a very different set of circumstances to what was set out in that claim form, and when there is a change in circumstances there is a duty to inform the DWP. The duty is to give a prompt notification for any change. The Crown say the defendant acted dishonestly in all this.”

Woodbridge gave a prepared statement in which he claimed the severity of his pain fluctuated, and that some days he was immobile and others he could move.

But Mr Fowler added: “The Crown say it was rather convenient that on each day he was filmed he was having a good day.”

Woodbridge, from Swanley, was granted bail until sentence in the week beginning November 27.

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