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Showing posts with label right to buy fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label right to buy fraud. Show all posts

6 Dec 2017

Man sentenced for right to buy fraud

David Cobbold, 55, from Great Horkesley, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court for sentencing. (h/t TenancyFraud)

He was found guilty by a unanimous jury verdict of fraud by false representation after he forged his deceased mother’s signature on a Right to Buy form between August 27 and September 18 2015, with the intention of obtaining a home in Rectory Road, Colchester, at a reduced price.

The jury took around two and a half hours to reach the decision.

Sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court, Cobbold was handed a two year jail sentence, suspended for two years by Judge Martyn Levett.

He was also ordered to pay costs of £2,400 and must carry out 300 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Source

18 Oct 2017

Tenancy fraud & right to buy fraud in Bassetlaw

A Bassetlaw A1 Housing tenant who was living and studying overseas for a number of years has been booted out of the property in a crackdown which has seen three fraudulent tenancies terminated.

An investigation was launched after the A1 Housing tenant applied to buy the property through the Right to Buy scheme - but it was suspected that it was not their main property.

It emerged that the tenant was "spending a considerable amount of time outside of the UK" and that they had been "living and attending university abroad for the majority of their time over a number of years".

Joint investigations by Bassetlaw District Council’s Fraud Investigations Team and A1 Housing - who manage the council's housing stock - uncovered the case and two other cases of tenancy fraud. All three resulted in voluntary terminations of the tenancies.

In the second case, the investigation team uncovered evidence that suggested a tenant was subletting their property. At an interview under caution the tenant admitted that their family had not been living at the property for the last 18 months.

And in the third case, housing officers had suspicions that the male tenant was subletting when, during a routine visit, only women's belongings could be seen in the flat. After initially denying the fraud, the tenant terminated the tenancy and returned the keys to A1 Housing.

Cllr Steve Scotthorne, cabinet member for Housing at Bassetlaw District Council, said: “Tenancy Fraud is illegal and deprives genuine tenants access to a home they may desperately need. The Council’s investigation team and A1 Housing will look closely into any suspicious circumstances and will not hesitate to recover a property, or pursue a criminal prosecution, should they find someone guilty of committing benefit fraud.”

None of the three tenants resulted in criminal prosecutions.

Tenancy cheats can face a fine of up to £50,000 and a prison sentence of up to two years if they are caught committing fraud. But the council says that should tenants voluntarily return the property back to them, they will not face any further legal action.

Tenancy fraud can include unlawfully subletting your property, dishonestly applying for a council property using someone else’s details or false information, continuing to live in a property if that person passes away and you do not have succession rights, or using someone else’s tenancy rights to put in a Right to Buy application.

Source

13 Oct 2017

Oxford recovers 21 social housing properties IN ONE YEAR

Oxford City Council's Investigation Service saved the Council £5.1 million in 2016/17, recovering 21 social housing properties that were in the hands of non-authorised occupants, and sifting out 33 fraudulent right-to-buy applications. (h/t Fraudmanager)

That was just in one year.

How much could that be nationally? Every year?

29 Sep 2017

Council crackdown uncovers millions of pounds worth of housing fraud

A crackdown has uncovered millions of pounds worth of housing fraud, according to council bosses. (h/t tenancyfraud)

Hundreds of cases of fraud or errors in applications for council housing were reported leading to dozens being marked as fraudulent.

East Dunbartonshire Council said the reports of fraud were up on previous years with almost 250 cases coming to their attention in the last year, with 42 marked fraud or containing errors.

Investigations led to 39 offers of a tenancy being withdrawn and a saving to the council coffers running into millions of pounds.

The council said each case of tenancy fraud costs and estimated £93,000 and affects others on the waiting list for housing.

The crackdown has, the council said, led to homes being unlocked for others who were further down the list who could have missed out.

The cost is estimated to be £3.6m saved.

The investigations also found three houses not to be occupied and they have since been reclaimed.

Another six homelessness applications were identified as having been made either fraudulently or in error.

The council said it has sent one case to the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service for consideration of criminal proceedings.

As well as the housing scams the fraud team also found Council Tax irregularities totalling £202,412, business rates evasion of £54,363 and employment-related fraud/theft of £1,139.

And on top of that a total of £89,337 was saved through the National Fraud Initiative.

The investigations across council departments found a range of fraudulent applications including for education places/funding requests and taxi licences.

Councillor Gordan Low, Leader of East Dunbartonshire Council, said, “Well done to everyone within the Corporate Fraud Team for their work over the past year. We have a zero-tolerance approach to fraud and corruption, and are committed to safeguarding public funds. Rest assured, we will continue to work with our partners to tackle all incidents of fraud - protecting the public purse and ensuring fairness as regards issues such as social housing, Council Tax and school placing requests.”

He urged the public to help the council by reporting any cases of fraud to help keep council costs down and protect council services.

Source

26 Jun 2017

Team stops £4.3m frauds in Suffolk

An anti-fraud team for three Suffolk authorities has stopped more than £4.3 million of public money being lost to fraud in the last 12 months, latest figures have shown. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

A dedicated team of five full-time specialists work across Ipswich, Suffolk Coastal and Waveney councils, investigating suspicious activity in Right to Buy applications, blue badge and bus pass misuse, social housing and housing benefits and council tax fraud among other activities.

After being formed in May 2015, the team reported it had stopped more than £3.2m of fraudulent activity in its first year across the three councils, and has now reported it has prevented £4.3m for the last 12 months.

Siobhan Martin, head of internal audit for the three councils, said: “It’s really making sure the money is there for the purpose it is there for, and providing value for money. We have a zero tolerance approach to fraud, and we do really mean it because there are people losing out from this. We are here to provide a public service the public are paying for, so it is about building public confidence.”

Among some of the issues identified were people using false identification, applying for Right to Buy discounts when they were unable to demonstrate how they could pay a mortgage or were otherwise ineligible, sub-letting council houses and misusing bus passes and blue badges.

In Ipswich 29 Right to Buy applications were stopped, saving nearly £2m alone. A further 21 were stopped in Waveney saving a further £2m from being lost.

Mrs Martin said the figures did not necessarily mean more fraud was happening, but said that a greater network of contacts, more experience and the addition of another investigator has helped the team prevent more fraud from happening.

It has now been approached by other authorities and agencies to help in their own work, but reiterated its zero tolerance message to would-be fraudsters.

Mrs Martin added: “We will take them down and we will prosecute if necessary.”

A spokeswoman from Suffolk police said it worked closely with partner agencies, including the fraud team, and worked alongside it to curb any criminal activity found during investigations.

To report suspicious activity confidentially call 01473 433999.

Source

30 May 2017

Team tackles housing frauds in Southwark

The number of council housing fraud cases passing through Southwark Council has fallen dramatically since 2014, a report has shown. (h/t tenancyfraud)

A “special investigation” team within Southwark Council’s Housing and Modernisation Department detected 509 suspect housing-tenancy cases between April 2016 and March 2017, compared with 1,751 in 2014-15.

Investigations in 2016-17 resulted in 89 council homes being seized. 173 applicants were taken off the council’s housing waiting list, while 106 applicants were classed as “bona fide”.

The work carried out by Southwark’s two verification officers, within anti-fraud services, also saw 22 right-to-buy applications stopped or cancelled.

So they were cost effective on this measure alone.

The council received 1,005 referrals from members of public via its website, by email, and its fraud hotline in 2016-17. This contributed to 77 “successful sanctions” among the 509 suspect cases that were detected.

Councillor Stephanie Cryan, Southwark Council’s cabinet member for housing, said:
The council has an obligation to ensure all applicants on our housing waiting list are genuinely in need and don’t have other properties, mortgages or undeclared changes to their circumstances, for example.

The council has focused on key areas which will prevent, reduce and detect fraud in order to safeguard and recover public assets – taking the matter to court where necessary.

A great deal of work has gone into improving the way the council verifies identities, cross references information and raises awareness of fraud to members of staff and the public.

Right to Buy applicants are reminded of the gravity of fraud and money laundering. These factors, combined with the push for prosecution for housing fraud, have attributed to a reduction in fraud in all areas.
The investigators’ scope was to look at unlawful subletting, non-occupation of council homes, succession, assignment, mutual exchange of homes between tenants, and right-to-buy.

Southwark has carried out annual fraud investigations of its housing department since 2014, after new government legislation.

The most prolific case to emerge from Southwark’s investigations came last year, when one of its former housing officers was handed a five year jail sentence for handling 24 bogus cases between 2003 and 2005. Five of the officer’s clients were also successfully convicted for offences such as illegal subletting of their council homes, and making applications using fraudulent birth certificates for children they didn’t.

Source

13 Apr 2017

Deserved jail sentence for right to buy fraudster

This is good news. Right to buy fraud is a wicked crime, taking a property out of the social housing stock at a big discount under false pretences. In this instance he was caught in time, and given an 18 month prison sentence.

A conman who tried to buy a council flat under the Right to Buy scheme was jailed after officers discovered he was illegally subletting it. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Babak Karimaghaei, 37, claimed to be living in a bedsit in Park View on the Highbury Park Estate when he applied to buy it. But Islington Council’s housing investigations team discovered he was living somewhere else, and he was prosecuted before he could get a £103,000 discount.

On Friday, March 31 at Blackfriars Crown Court, Karimaghaei was convicted of fraud by false representation, and jailed for 18 months.

Sentencing him, judge Richardson said: “Immediate custody is required to punish a cynical abuse of a right intended for people who were really living in the house which they were applying to buy.”

Town hall housing boss Cllr Diarmaid Ward said Right-to-Buy fraud took housing away from the people who badly needed it and profited fraudsters like Karimaghaei. “We will investigate all suspected right-to-buy fraud, take legal action where there is evidence, and pursue the strongest penalties against offenders,” he said.

Source

31 Mar 2017

Woman convicted of social housing frauds

A woman who lied about living at her mother's council house so she could inherit it after her mum died has been convicted at court.

The case against Cara Wood, from Paignton, was brought by Plymouth City Council's Corporate Fraud team on behalf of Teignbridge Council.

Wood appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday, where she was convicted of making a false claim on 9 October 2014 to Teign Housing by stating that she lived at 39 Furlong Close, Buckfast for at least 12 months with a view to gaining a succession right to the property following her mother's death.

On further investigation, the electoral roll and council tax records of Teignbridge Council showed Cara Wood's mother, Deborah Lawton, as living alone at the property during the period Wood referred to, and Wood actually living above a wine bar at 14 North Street, Ashburton at the time of her mother's death. The court heard Wood had not lived at the Furlong Close address for at least five years.

Wood was also convicted of making a dishonest false statement with a view to gain for herself by indicating that she had held a social tenancy for at least three years to qualify for the Right to Buy a social housing property at 29 Westabrook in Ashburton by stating that she had held a social housing property between August 2008 and June 2015.

Had Wood been successful in her Right To Buy application, she would have saved herself £57,750 on buying the property. The court was told she withdrew her application after an interview under caution.

Wood received a five month prison sentence for each offence to run consecutively, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £450 and a victim surcharge of £85.

In mitigation, the court heard that Wood had been pressured by family members to apply so her sister and her family could obtain the property. Wood said she did it to stop her sister and children from becoming homeless.

Councillor Ian Darcy, cabinet member for finance for Plymouth City Council said: "This case sends a clear message that we will not tolerate any fraud in Plymouth, and in particular housing fraud, at a time when there is a large waiting list for social housing. The conviction was for an offence that is contrary to the Fraud Act 2006. Social housing properties are at a premium in the UK and a scarce asset. Social housing cheats deprive those in genuine need of one of the most basic needs in life – somewhere to live."

The Corporate Fraud Team operate as the South West Anti-Fraud Service and cover the whole region. They said they have already had a number of successes for other local authorities across Devon as well as Plymouth City Council.

Source

7 Jul 2016

Mother jailed for right to buy fraud

A woman has been jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to subletting her council property and providing false information in order to purchase it under the Right to Buy scheme.

However Council officers have yet to confiscate the fraudulently obtained discount as well as the income from subletting the property. Moshoodat Oladejo, or Oshodi, pleaded guilty to both charges at Wood Green Crown Court and was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment.

Barking and Dagenham Council Officers discovered that she had sublet her one bedroom flat in Keir Hardie Way, Barking, after she had bought the property under the Government Right to Buy scheme.

Oladejo was found to have sublet the council property while living with her husband and children at an address in Dagenham, owned by her husband, a fact that she concealed when applying to buy it.

As a result she was able to buy the property at a discounted rate of £47,000 and continue to sublet it for financial gain.

Councillor Dominic Twomey, deputy leader and cabinet member for finance said: “We will not tolerate housing cheats in Barking and Dagenham. Council properties are precious and there for decent law-abiding people, not for greedy fraudsters. I can assure residents we will be remorseless in our pursuit of them to make sure council homes go to those who have the right to live in one.”

According to Barking and Dagenham Council this is one of several cases against tenants suspected of committing fraud, currently being prosecuted.

Source

31 Jul 2015

Right To Buy frauds jump

The number of detected Right to Buy frauds in London has more than doubled in a year, councils have reported.

The report, by the London Boroughs’ Fraud Investigators’ Group, shows there were 300 detected Right to Buy frauds in the capital in 2014/15, up from 131 in 2013/14. The value of Right to Buy frauds has almost trebled, from £9m to £26.5m, over the same period.

The report estimates that around 3% of Right to Buy applications are fraudulent. The government increased Right to Buy discounts in April 2012 and the maximum discount is currently £103,000 in London.

It said: “The significant sums involved and the relentless increases in property values, especially in London, have made RTB discounts highly attractive, including to fraudsters. In the two years immediately after the discount increase was implemented, there was a near five-fold increase in the number of RTB frauds detected nationally.”

The report also shows that the number of detected housing benefit frauds has dropped 50% from 5,734 in 2013/14 to 2014/15, with the total value dropping from £28.2m to £23.5m over the same period.

However the average value of housing benefit frauds detected increased from £4,926 to £8,393, suggesting investigators are focusing more on detecting higher value cases.

Responsibility for investigating housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud is moving in stages to the Department for Work and Pensions, completing in March.

The report said: “Those London boroughs still investigating housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud are focusing on higher value frauds. This is an understandable development, but may indicate that they are generally not investigating lower value housing benefit frauds.’

The government is planning to extend higher Right to Buy discounts to housing association tenants. A Housing Bill to implement this is expected to come before parliament later in the year.

Source

3 Oct 2014

Basic right to buy checks save council £410k in 3 months

Hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money is being saved by a council crackdown on fraudulent social-housing sales.

In a joint initiative with Homes for Northumberland, Northumberland County Council’s new corporate fraud team is carrying out enhanced checks on Right to Buy applications, and in its first three months has saved the authority over £400,000.

Right to Buy allows many social-housing tenants to buy their council homes at a discount, based on the length of time tenants have been in the address. Nationally, the scheme has been identified as an emerging risk for local authorities and an area of potential financial loss.

Northumberland also has a high percentage of sales against housing stock compared with other authorities – and tackling fraudulent sales has been one of the priorities for the new team.

Northumberland County Council deputy leader, Dave Ledger, said
:As with all types of fraud, preventing it from happening in the first place is far more cost-effective than taking action once it’s happening. We have introduced more stringent vetting procedures including completion of an anti-money laundering form, ID verification in person and credit reference agency data checks as well as visiting and interviewing applicants.

Since we started carrying out these checks in July a total of 12 applications have been withdrawn in Alnwick, Cramlington, Blyth and Seaton Delaval. The total amount of discount that would have been given is a staggering £410,000.

This, together with the retention of the property and the potential of associated temporary housing costs which could have been required, means significant savings to the council and ultimately benefits everyone living in the county.
Kevin Lowry, managing director at Homes for Northumberland, said:
Every year hundreds of thousands of pounds of council taxpayers’ money is fraudulently claimed by right to buy cheats – money that should be spent on improving our local communities.

Social-housing fraud affects councils across the country and it is a crime which ultimately deprives affordable homes from those who need it most. This partnership between Homes for Northumberland and Northumberland County Council has introduced a range of new, more rigorous checks to prevent housing fraud before it happens.

The new enhanced checks will make a huge impact and send a clear message to those who commit social housing fraud or are thinking of committing this crime to think again.

Source

If claiming right to buy fraudulently is as easy across the country as it was in Northumberland, we must be losing many millions a year.