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Showing posts with label slow benefit fraud administration. Show all posts
Showing posts with label slow benefit fraud administration. Show all posts

30 Jul 2019

Ethel McGill, benefit fraudster, jailed

A woman from Runcorn who has spent the last 12 years pretending her dead dad was alive to claim his war pension has been sent to jail.

Described as 'despicable', Ethel McGill, 68, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court after previously being set for sentencing on July 19 in Chester.

However, the Liverpool Echo reports the case was transferred to accommodate her need of a wheelchair. McGill had pleaded guilty to 14 counts of false welfare claims and money laundering of an estimated £740,000, one of the biggest cases of its type according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Robert Dudley, prosecuting, told Chester Crown Court how her duplicity began nearly 30 years ago as she registered at two separate doctors’ surgeries under different names, presenting at one without any serious health issues and at the other with a myriad of ailments.

When McGill’s father died in 2004, McGill continued to claim his war pension for another 12 years, even persuading someone to lie in his bed to hoodwink assessors from the Independent Living Fund in 2012.

The scam reaped a staggering £590,000 for McGill.

Two years later in 2014 she told Liverpool Housing Trust that her father was in Scotland with his carer.

McGill even fabricated the existence of a carer to make bogus care package claims to Halton Borough Council.

Suspicions continued to mount and the Department For Work And Pensions (DWP) launched a covert surveillance probe in 2016, and discovered that despite McGill’s claims of having ‘severe care needs’ due to debilitating illnesses including dementia, she was seen shopping, carrying items such as wooden shelving and armfuls of boxes around as well as lifting, bending, and moving around without help.

When arrested, she appeared ‘very confused and unable to speak’, and when not lying down in an awkward posture, she walked with one foot turned inwards. After she left the station, officers watched on CCTV as she began walking with her foot pointing forward and ‘talking animatedly’ with her son.

When DWP investigators searched her home, they found home videos of McGill walking unaided as well as a bizarre acting agency profile promoting herself as ‘actor, film and stage crew’ who can play roles from ‘a very hard-hearted Glasgow woman to being a very timid domestic abuse victim’.

Despite being charged, her rampant duplicity continued.

McGill even failed to attend an early court hearing in Warrington over a supposed stroke, but extensive scans found no sign of a problem and she was discharged with a diagnosis of ‘fictitious illness behaviour’.

Dan Gaskell, defending, said his client had chosen not to take medication that had affected her ability to ‘focus’ at her previous court hearing when the judge had reprimanded her for presenting as incognisant, telling her ‘don’t insult my intelligence’.

Mr Gaskell said McGill’s husband had played a role in instigating the claims for her father’s war pension after his death, and added that medication she began taking had affected her mental health adding that the scam was evidence of a mental health problem in itself.

He added that it was a general practitioner who had diagnosed her dementia, not herself.

Judge Steven Everett said the court had to send a message that it was unacceptable to fleece £740,000 from the public purse.

He cited a pre-sentence report from a probation officer who interviewed McGill to assess her prospects for rehabilitation and found her ‘untruthful and devious’ with ‘no remorse’ and ‘relevant previous convictions’.

The judge branded her ‘pathetic’ for having switched from speaking normally during an interview with a probation officer to pretending to be incoherent when her son entered the room.

In addition, it remains a mystery as to what happened to the cash as McGill was not observed to be living a lavish lifestyle with her ill-gotten bonanza.

The judge sentenced McGill – who tried to hide her face as she arrived at court on Monday by burying her face against a pile of incontinence pads – to five years and 10 months in prison.

During his summing up, Judge Everett said: “Nobody believes – I don’t – nobody believes that you are ill.

“You have been putting this on now for many years regrettably, and your devious behaviour with very little remorse sadly has finally caught up with you and now you are going to have to learn the punishment. You pleaded guilty at a late stage in these proceedings. It’s clear to me that you went as far as you possibly could until you realised that there was no way out for you and that’s why you pleaded guilty.”

He added: “You decided to use your father’s death to your financial benefit. What a terrible terrible thing to do and it wasn’t even for a short space of time.

“For year after year, you in a sense sadly sullied your father’s name and I note for example he was entitled to a war pension and you sullied his name by making these dishonest, despicably dishonest claims and they were for a substantial amount of money.”

A DWP spokeswoman said that McGill’s ruse had evaded the authorities early on because her father had two identities of Robert Dennison and Thomas Dennison and his death had been registered in a different name to his benefits claims.

There were more family aspects to the case also.

At an earlier hearing, McGill’s sons Christopher McGill, 28, was handed a two-year community order and 150 hours unpaid work at Chester Crown Court on July 19 over two counts of acquiring criminal property for signing for carer’s allowance on a form that forensic handwriting analysts established was filled in by his mum.

The charges related to claims for £27,000 over eight years, six months.

Hannah Bazley, 25, admitted two counts of fraud by false representation in connection with claims for £3,700 in benefits, relating to a Halton Borough Council care package to pay for a non-existent carer.

A Proceeds Of Crime Act hearing is to take place to determine what happened to the cash.

Source with picture

2 Jul 2019

Benefit cheat makes her crime pay

A grandmother who falsely claimed more than £43,000 in benefits and went on holiday has been ordered to pay back a fraction of that sum. (h/t Dave)

Geraldine Thomas was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, in July last year and was back in court on Friday for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

At her sentencing hearing , Recorder Patrick Harrington QC noted the money was spent on “an expensive holiday”.

The court heard she fraudulently claimed more than £43,000 in benefits over a five-year period.

Prosecutors said she failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Caerphilly council of a change in her circumstances between 2011 and 2016.

She claimed Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction on the basis she was living alone.

But she was actually living with her partner, Raymond Adams, who was contributing to the household income.

During the sentencing hearing at Newport Crown Court , the court was told she used the money to fund a number of holidays to destinations such as Egypt for her and her partner.

The DWP and Gwent Police launched an investigation, monitoring Thomas and Mr Adams over a number of years.

They used a “search and seizure” order to enter the defendant’s home and gain evidence.

Thomas, 55, from Bargoed, admitted three counts of benefit fraud.

Kathryn Lane, defending, said her client – a grandmother-of-two – had never been before the courts before.

She said: “[Thomas] foolishly engaged in this offending and is thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed by it. She is a valued and routinely relied and depended-upon family member and a valued member of the community. There have been a number of bereavements of close family members recently which has had an effect on her and she has been picking up the pieces of those closest to her.”

Recorder Harrington said: “No mention has been made of your lifestyle and I know what the money has been spent on. It was spent on an expensive holiday wasn’t it?

“Benefit fraud is rife and costs honest hardworking people a lot of money.”

During the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Cardiff Crown Court , it was found she wrongly gained £43,015.10 from her offending.

She had £6,500 available and was ordered to pay that amount within three months, or risk going to prison for three months.

Source with pictures

6 Jun 2019

Benefit fraud takes years to reach court

This is an example of how the benefits fraud enforcement system is overwhelmed - so overwhelmed that it is really just there for show. 

This offender's over-claiming was reported back in 2016. He was interviewed in 2017. But his case doesn't reach court until 2019. 

How many millions does this flabby, under-resourced benefit fraud enforcement cost us each year?

And notice that his offending wasn't detected by officials. The fraud was only revealed  by a tip off.

A benefit cheat who found work after suffering a 'very unpleasant' work accident at Wythenshawe Hospital has been spared jail.

Arthur Postill, 65, claimed £36,099 in several benefits which he was not entitled to, Manchester Crown Court heard.

He was caught out after undercover officers launched a surveillance operation.

The claims were legitimate at the start, but Postill, from Altrincham, failed to inform the authorities that he had started casual work with a cleaning company.

The court was told that in 2002 Postill suffered 'significant' injuries in an accident at work at the south Manchester hospital, affecting his ability to work.

He would have been entitled to some smaller amount of benefits if he had declared the work, the court was told.

From November 2010 to March 2016, when he was detected, Postill claimed more than £17,000 in disability living allowance, more than £6,000 in incapacity benefit, more than £5,000 in employment support allowance, £180 in job seeker's allowance and more than £6,000 in housing benefit.

The total of fraudulent claims was £36,099, prosecutor Bob Golinski said. He told how an investigation was launched after the benefit fraud hotline was tipped off about Postill.

Officers found that he was working in some capacity for a contract cleaning company, work which affected his entitlement to benefits. He worked driving cleaners around, transporting items and also working as a cleaner himself, the court was told.

When he was interviewed in February 2017, Postill was shown images of him working and accepted the man in the pictures was him.

Postill has previous convictions, but the last recorded offences were more than 20 years ago for driving matters.

Defending, Rachel White said Postill was taking part in casual work for the company through family connections, as the firm was run by his sister in law.

She pointed out that Postill has been 'out of trouble for many many years', and asked that the defendant be allowed to walk free from court.

Judge Martin Rudland agreed, handing down a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years.

Postill must also complete 10 rehabilitation activity requirement days.

The judge told him: "I am prepared to accept you are a man who has hitherto led a stable and decent life, apart from those blemishes a a younger man. I don't doubt, Mr Postill, that the courts will never see you again."

Postill previously pleaded guilty to six counts of benefit fraud.

Source with picture

9 Apr 2019

Lottery winner kept claiming benefits

A lottery winner scooped a £300,000 jackpot – but kept on claiming benefit payments despite no longer being entitled to them. (h/t Dave)

Lesley Thomas, 49, bagged the massive windfall but failed to tell the authorities and kept claiming housing benefit and employment and support allowance.

Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates’ Court on Monday heard the total overpayment was in excess of £17,988.

Prosecutor Monique McKevitt said: “[Ms Thomas] received a sum of £300,000 as a lottery win from Camelot UK.

“Ms Thomas was interviewed on March 15 last year. She admitted that she had claimed the fraudulent funds. The payment has been paid back in full.”

Thomas pleaded guilty to failing to inform Merthyr Tydfil council of her change of circumstances relating to the housing benefit she was receiving between April 2015 and November 2015.

She also pleaded guilty to failing to inform the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about her change of circumstances between April 2015 and February 2018, which would have affected her entitlement to Employment and Support Allowance.

A probation report said Ms Thomas has shown “deep remorse for her actions”.

The court was also told Ms Thomas, from Merthyr Tydfil , lives alone with no children or partner.

She was said to have numerous health complaints that require the ongoing support of carers on a daily basis, especially to help her carry out daily chores.

Kim Treloar, mitigating, said: “This case goes back some years now.”

Discussing the lottery win she added: “She gave some money to her niece to assist her. She gave some money to her relatives.

“She suffered with depression, anxiety, and many physical issues. She has fully accepted that she’s done wrong.”

Bench chair Mary Morris said the magistrates “took a long time” to consider the sentence they would impose.

They handed Thomas a 26-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months.

She was also ordered to pay £200 in costs and was handed a 12-week tagged curfew.

Mrs Morris said: “[The offence] was over a long period of time and we did find that it was a deliberate act.”

Source with picture

20 Mar 2019

£1m benefit fraud gang finally sentenced

Seven benefit assessors have now been sentenced to prison for a total of 17 years for their roles in housing benefit fraud which saw more than £1m stolen from three councils in London.

The assessors worked in the local authorities of Lambeth, Kingston, and Barking and Dagenham, creating false housing benefit claims over a period of six years and sending the funds to accounts they controlled.

Lambeth employee Menelik Cowan, one of the driving forces of the fraud, and six others, denied fraud but were convicted by a jury after a three-month trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Cowan was sentenced to six-and-a-half years’ imprisonment. He had diverted £293,147 from his employers over six years. Others received between three-and-a-half years' imprisonment and 18 months.

The gang would identify properties, collect details for false claims and create appointments for the fraudsters at the council.

They also approved false claims and used their systems to ensure council letters, which might have revealed their fraud, were not sent to the properties.

Money was sent into accounts controlled by money launderers who left the country before they could be charged.

The Crown Prosecution Service worked closely with investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions Serious and Organised Investigation Team to bring the prosecution.

Ben Reid, of the CPS, said: “These council-employed assessors were trusted to look after badly needed public money meant to help people find somewhere to live. Instead they corrupted the systems and sent over one million pounds to money launderers in the criminal underground.

“During their trial they said they had no idea the claims were false and that they were simply processing papers given to them by their managers. However, the CPS prosecution showed the jury messages between them and their co-conspirators planning the whole thing.

“They have now been convicted by the jury and these public funds are safely out of their hands.”

A timetable for proceeds of crime hearings will now be set out where the CPS will seek to recover any outstanding assets.

It's all so slow.

Menelik Cowan pleaded guilty to one offence of fraud by abuse of positon and one offence of possession of false identity documents with intent. He was then convicted of five further offences of fraud by abuse of position after trial. The value of his offending is £293,147. He was imprisoned for six-and-a-half years.

Hugh Small pleaded guilty to one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement. He was then convicted of one further offence of fraud by abuse of position after trial. The value of his offending is £112,983. He was imprisoned for three-and-a-half years.

Rahel Asfaha was convicted after trial of eight offences of fraud by abuse of position, worth £181,872. Imprisoned for two-and-a-half years.

Alex Williams was convicted after trial of one offence of fraud by abuse of position worth £240,345. Imprisoned for three-and-a-half years.

Cassandra Johnson was convicted after trial of three offences of fraud by abuse of position worth £106,834. Imprisoned for 18 months.

Jessica Bartley was convicted after trial of one offence of fraud by abuse of position worth £71,600. Imprisoned for 18 months, suspended for 18 months, and given 200 hours unpaid work.

Natasha Francis was convicted after trial of one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £2,868. 18-month community order, and 200 hours unpaid work.

Donna Francis was convicted after trial of one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £8,323.43. 12-month community order.

Derrick Williams was convicted after trial of two offences of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £14,168.03. Imprisoned for 15 months, suspended for 18 months.

Source

19 Mar 2019

2014 benefit fraud comes to court

A woman suffering from poor health claimed more than £10,000 she was not entitled to when her condition improved.

Sami Farooq's claim for Disability Living Allowance was legitimate from the outset.

But when the 50-year-old's health improved and she gained employment working with a firm of woollen spinners she failed to tell anyone.

She pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to a benefit.

Farooq, from Crosland Moor, committed the offence between January and October, 2014.

Alex Bozman, prosecuting, said that she became well enough to take up employment with the company for a period of nine months during that year.

He told Kirklees magistrates : “As a consequence she obtained benefits to the value of £10,532 which she was not entitled to. The prosecution accepts that she was originally entitled to the benefits. But when she obtained work with the woollen spinners she accepts she should have notified the appropriate departments of this work. She said that she didn't think it was dishonest.”

Magistrates were told that Farooq has been out of trouble for almost a decade. The last offences on her record were shoplifting matters dating back 10 years.

The Huddersfield court heard that the overpaid cash is now being repaid to the DWP.

Andrew Stewardson, mitigating, said: “It's not a claim which was fraudulent from the outset – she has had some health troubles. She is now on benefits and not currently working.”

Magistrates described the offence as 'serious' and sentenced Farooq to an 18 week curfew. This will run between the hours of 7pm and 7am and be electronically monitored.

She must pay £85 court costs and £85 victim surcharge.

Source with pictures

23 Jan 2019

Long delay in benefit fraud prosecution

Benefit cheat Mark Weston claimed more than £54,000 he wasn't entitled to - before investigators used Facebook to rumble him.

The 58-year-old had received council tax discounts, housing benefit and income support on the basis he was living alone.

But for part of that time, Weston had in fact been sharing his home in Cobridge with his wife.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard investigators found she had been using the address for correspondence, listed Weston as next of kin, and had been posting about the defendant on Facebook - including a birthday and anniversary greeting.

Now Weston has been handed a suspended prison sentence and hit with a curfew.

Richard McConaghy, prosecuting, said the defendant had received more than £16,000 from Stoke-on-Trent City Council for council tax and housing benefit, with the majority - just over £37,000 coming from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Mr McConaghy said: "In September 2013 the defendant completed a document and he failed to update any information about his household - particularly the presence of his wife.

"In late 2016 the DWP received an allegation about his circumstances and commenced their investigation.

"An early morning drive-by revealed a car registered to the defendant's wife was at the address and on the drive. Inquiries were made with various organisations including Stoke-on-Trent City Council who were the victims of two counts. His wife had provided it as her home address and he was her next of kin. Further inquiries were made that she she was using the address for a considerable period of time."

The investigators also used Facebook to prove that Weston was cheating the public purse.

The prosecutor said: "Her Facebook page was looked at and showed multiple references to the defendant where she wished him a happy birthday and wished him a happy anniversary and spoke of 24 years. She also wished him a happy 50th birthday and referred to him as her 'hubby'.

"He was interviewed in February 2017, over what had happened and he initially denied she had moved back in with him. He spoke of a fall he had suffered and said she was staying two to three nights a week to help him recover. He was shown documentary evidence showing she had used the address and he admitted she moved back in to the home in May 2012. He accepted he had been dishonest. He was not charged until the latter part of 2018."

Weston, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances in relation to council tax benefit, housing benefit and income support.

Neil Gerrity, defending, said Weston is in poor health and is suffering a high heart rate. He said: "He is still in receipt of benefit and is having a reduction from them. He is now living on his own and his wife has moved out."

Judge Paul Glenn sentenced Weston to a 14-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. He will also have a nine-month electronically monitored curfew between 9pm and 5am.

The Judge commented that
The length of time is aggravating but the delay in this case is unexplainable and that constitutes some form of punishment.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers' money from the people who need it. We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”

More

If the DWP were serious about catching as many benefit cheats as possible, it would not tolerate these delays.

1 Nov 2018

"Ghostbuster gran" said she was disabled

Grandma Nicola McVicker, 53, tried to convince social services she suffered from crippling “social phobia” and could not walk more than 50 metres.

But conniving McVicker was employed by Ghostly Goings On, which organises trips to “haunted” properties.

She is said to have worked as a paranormal investigator for three years – a job that required her to spend hours on her feet.

The “party animal” – who has a previous conviction for benefit fraud from 2007 – was clocked dancing at a hen do while claiming a disability living allowance, Gloucester Crown Court heard.

It comes as the bill for benefit fraud soared to £3.8billion in 2017 - with more than £70million a week handed to fraudsters or wrongly paid out, it was revealed in August.

Officers from the Department of Work and Pensions also spotted her jogging across a car park – despite being given a special mobility car funded by taxpayers.

She insisted she had breathing difficulties and needed diazepam to remain calm in social settings.

But her Facebook profile revealed how she had an “active social life”.

McVicker’s lies about her condition meant she was given a higher rate of disability living allowance and pocketed more than £19,000 she was entitled to.

She pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between January 3, 2012 and July 5, 2016.

McVicker had initially denied the charge and had been due to stand trial yesterday until she changed her plea at the last minute.

Prosecutor Chris Smyth told the court: “Her capabilities had improved. She had become sufficiently mobile to shop on her own, work, socialise, and on occasion, fairly energetically.

"But she said she had extreme anxiety attacks, and breathing difficulties, and could not walk anywhere without diazepam, and being with someone. She said she could not leave her home alone at anytime due to social phobia.

"She said she could not walk more than 50 metres, and some days not at all, when her pain relief was not satisfactory. She said she was 'completely dependent on others' and in her renewal application she said she could only walk two metres very slowly".

Mitigating, Michael Anning told how McVicker’s health was “worse now than it was in the surveillance”.

Her medical issues were the result of a “vicious attack” in 2005 which saw her “beaten and stabbed”, leading to a psychological and physical deterioration,” Mr Anning said.

McVicker was only working for Ghostly Goings On as a volunteer, the lawyer added.

She admitted dancing at a Christmas party – but insisted she had to be “heavily medicated” and it had “cost her a week in bed”.

Speaking about her previous benefit fraud conviction, Mr Anning added: “She had a child who became pregnant. With the increased financial demands she acknowledges she worked when claiming benefits.”

Sentencing McVicker to eight months in prison, suspended for a year, Judge Michael Callum described the DWP as a “lifeline for many deserving people”.

"When someone like you turns to dishonesty to claim more, or like you drift over by not notifying a change, you not only demean yourself, you also take wrongly from a very limited pot of money.

"That is why in my judgement in relation to this benefit, the court treats it as very serious offence.

"Albeit as a volunteer, you worked. You were socialising.

"I accept you have ailments physical and mental. They may be greater now than they were in 2016. Today you do not portray as the healthy woman in surveillance two years ago.

"It can only be a custodial sentence, but I will suspend it.”

But Judge Cullum warned McVicker: "If you breach it, in reality whether you have disabilities or not you will go to prison.”

Source with pictures

30 Oct 2018

Benefit fraudster said he was disabled

A 67-year-old man who was paid benefits of nearly £60,000 after claiming he could hardly walk was photographed jogging up a hill, painting while standing on a rooftop - and sitting astride a Harley Davidson motorbike, a court heard.

Secret surveillance of Anthony Pritchard in February last year 'demonstrated far greater capabilities than he claimed', Gloucester Crown Court was told.

Pritchard, from Thrupp, near Stroud, had claimed Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments by stating he was 'virtually unable to walk', said prosecutor Alun Williams.

Pritchard admitted four offences of benefit fraud between August 2006 and April 2017. He had received £59,211.25 more than he was entitled to, Mr Williams told Judge Michael Cullum.

The prosecutor said two of Pritchard's offences related to him failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that he was receiving rental income from his property. He received income support and pension credit without revealing that income.

But the 'particularly serious' offences he committed related to him failing to notify the DWP that his 'capabilities had improved and his care needs reduced', Mr Williams said.

Pritchard made the claim for DLA on the basis that he was 'virtually unable to walk' but covert surveillance between February 16 and 28, 2017 'demonstrated far greater capabilities than he claimed', said the prosecutor.

Mr Williams said he was seen 'jogging' to his car up and down a slope of 80 metres, 'unaided, without pain or imbalance'.

Pritchard was also observed 'walking at pace, albeit with a slight limp' and 'visiting B&Q and parking 50 metres from the entrance, ignoring the disabled bay'.

“Finally he was also witnessed on June 11, 2017 at the Gloucester Motor Show, walking along unaided with no assistance,” the prosecutor said. “There is a slight limp but no walking aids.”

Those investigations led the department to request a police search warrant of his address.

“No bedding was found downstairs,” Mr Williams said. “And the garden was neat and tidy.”

The barrister said: “There was photographic evidence of a very full lifestyle. Capabilities far greater than he declared.”

He referred to photos of a 'new motorhome' with bikes mounted on a rear rack, sightseeing trips to the Olympic games in 2012, and of Pritchard on the roof of his extension project getting involved in the painting.

“This was confirmed on his Facebook account,” Mr Williams said. “He is stood on a step ladder with paint roller in his hand.”

The court heard there was a picture from 2013 of him 'sat astride a Harley Davidson, and he had been the registered keeper of a Ducati motorcycle since 2009.

There were also other vehicles that Mr Williams referred to - an MG Coupe, a Ford Motorcaravan, a Vauxhall Combi Van and a Jaguar XK8 convertible.

The barrister said that Pritchard became the registered keeper of a Harley Davidson in 2012, and through MOT checks the investigators established it had covered 4,000 miles between that year and 2017.

“There were also five insurance policies recorded on that motorcycle,” Mr Williams said. “That is at odds with what he claimed of his abilities.”

Mr Williams turned to the fourth count on the indictment relating to PIP, and said: “He phoned the department of work and pensions in December 2016. He verbally answered questions and completed a form subsequently. He said he needed help preparing food, washing bathing, dressing and had other incapacities”

Judge Cullum said that could be interpreted as “dishonest from the start as it does not start until 2016. A dishonest action on that date.”

The court heard that in interview following his arrest Pritchard' maintained his stance, until confronted with evidence.'

Mr Williams said “But then he was obfuscating and sarcastic - challenging the prosecution to prove it.”

Mr Williams said that Pritchard had six previous convictions for fifteen offences, but the most recent was 2007 and 'they must be regarded as spent'.

The prosecutor concluded by saying: “If not a lavish lifestyle, it included a great deal of material wealth, the motorhomes, the sports cars and the motorcycles. We ask that the court proceeds under the proceed of crime act.”

Sarah Jenkins, representing Pritchard said: “He has suffered from a number of different health complaints.”

She said he struggled with anxiety and being in crowded spaces. The trips to the Olympic games were with a partner who 'helps him tolerate situations he could not do on his own'.

“There were periods of time when it seemed to be worse and periods when better,” the lawyer said. “If there was a day when he felt well in the morning he would try and do jobs around the house. When it happened it would only be for a short period of time. If he pushed past that, his condition would feel much worse.

“If he was having a good day, anxiety under control, feeling well, he would take advantage of that.

“There was a definite pattern of health being up and down. Since the investigation begun, there has been a continuing decline in is health. He cannot walk unaided at the moment,” the lawyer said.

She also told the judge that Pritchard was under the care of two specialists due to his present health problems.

“I would ask Your Honour to consider that at 67 with a relatively lengthy period since any offences committed he is not a man that needs to receive an immediate custodial sentence,” she argued. “It could be reflected by a period of custody that is suspended.”

Mrs Jenkins said that as a result of the proceeds of crime procedures, his assets would be liquidised and he faced losing his home.

Probably liquidated. Liquidised seems a new but spectacular penalty.

“He is going to be punished for these offences. The DWP are going to recover that money from him. He owns his own home. That is his life's work. The reality is that will be recovered from him. He does not lead a lavish lifestyle.”

Imposing a suspended jail term, Judge Cullum said: “You are now in decreasing health, and have had matters of ill health for some time. But it certainly did not stop you when you were covertly observed, jogging, walking unaided, and going to B&Q, all in 2017.”

The judge noted that now: “You clearly present as someone who would be wholly incapable of that, but your condition now is of less importance.”

He ruled: “Your disability was very significantly different from what you were portraying. That is the seriousness of this case. You were simply not being honest with the authorities, exaggerating and to be honest and lying.”

The judge told Pritchard by doing this he was doing 'a huge number of people a disservice'.

“Firstly those people who are so often criticised for administering these [benefit assessment] procedures and secondly those who a struggling and striving for these benefits. You take money out of the pot for those that are properly deserving.

“I have to consider stark choice of suspending or not. Bearing in mind all I have read about you, I am satisfied that the balance does mean that this can be a sentence that is suspended. It is to be hoped that every penny will be retrieved from you.”

The judge imposed a nine month jail term suspended for 12 months and fixed a proceeds of crime hearing for March 4 next year.

Source

15 Oct 2018

"Disabled" pensioner walked her dog 4 times a day

A 72-year-old benefits cheat who falsely claimed more than £22,400 was caught after being spotted walking her dog up to four times a day.

Patricia Kowalewski claimed disability living allowance between March 24 2010 and September 27 2016, stating she wasn’t able to carry out certain everyday tasks.

But the Department of Work and Pensions received an anonymous tip-off before investigators carried out surveillance.

Fiscal depute Anna Chisholm said: “She claimed that her needs were greater than they actually were. This first came to light when an anonymous allegation came to the DWP as to the accused’s ability to walk the dog… up to four times a day.”

Investigators watched Kowalewski on eight occasions also spotting her walking with no aid, at a “normal pace”, opening and closing garage doors with no difficulty and picking up shopping from her car.

Ms Chisholm said Kowalewski had claimed a total of £44,929.50 over the same period but accepted she “would have been entitled to some of the disability allowance”.

Kowalewski appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for sentencing having previously pled guilty.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly said: “It’s a matter of great shame to her that she finds herself facing a criminal process so late in life.”

He said Kowalewski suffered from back problems and chronic pain and had good days and bad days, adding: “It could be argued it’s a partial fraud.” He said she had been paying money back at £200 per month.

Sheriff Graham Buchanan said: “Plainly this is a serious offence because of the amount of money which you obtained from the state to which you were not entitled.”

He ordered Kowalewski, from Kingswells, to carry out 270 hours of unpaid work.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like these show how we are catching the minority who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from those who need it. We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”

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27 Sep 2018

Three court hearings & mild punishment for social housing frauds

A tenant of Hackney Council has been forced to pay nearly £148,000, after an investigation found he had been illegally subletting his property whilst living elsewhere.

A shockingly large amount of money.

Jeremy Matuba pleaded guilty in August to three criminal offences under the Fraud Act 2006 related to subletting his home and providing false information on two right to buy applications.

Matuba received a two year suspended prison sentence, 250 hours community service and a three month curfew.

The criminal prosecution followed separate proceedings in the civil court to end the tenancy, which resulted in an award of outright possession to the council.

This legal procedure forces inefficient use of taxpayers' money.

A confiscation order under the proceeds of crime act was made against Mr Matuba at Snaresbrook Crown Court on September 19 for £147,998.97.

Here we are again - a third court hearing.

Ian Williams, the council’s corporate finance director, said: “Hackney is determined to ensure that our social housing is used for those genuinely in need of housing assistance.

“We will continue to use all available powers to take a firm stance against those involved in the subletting of social housing, which not only deprives families of permanent accommodation, but also places a significant financial burden on the council at a time when we are already working hard to deliver services that are valued by our residents, despite reduced budgets.”

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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.

Source

Surveillance was conducted nearly three years ago.

31 Jul 2018

Benefit fraud investigation took years

A benefit fraudster grandmother illegally claimed more than £41,000 which she spent on luxury holidays to Egypt. (h/t Fraud Manager)

Geraldine Thomas, 54, of Bargoed , failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Caerphilly council about a change of circumstances over a period of five years.

The defendant told the authorities she was living on her own, but her partner Raymond Adams had been living with her since 2011 and while she was claiming benefits he was working and contributing to the household income.

A sentencing hearing at Newport Crown Court heard Thomas been in a relationship with Mr Adams on and off since 2000 and had rekindled their relationship in 2011.

From that date to 2016 Thomas claimed income support worth £24,174, employment and support allowance worth £115, housing benefit worth £16,136 and council tax benefit worth ££925. The total amount of benefits which had been illegally claimed was £41,350.

Thomas used money she had illegally obtained to fund a number of luxury holidays to destinations such as Egypt for her and her partner.

An investigation was launched by the DWP and Gwent Police, who monitored Thomas and Mr Adams over a number of years and used a "search and seizure" order to enter the defendant's home and gain evidence.

After being arrested and charged Thomas later pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud.

Defence barrister Kathryn Lane said her client had never been before the courts before.

She added: "[Thomas] foolishly engaged in this offending and is thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed by it. She comes to court today knowing the consequences she faces. Ms Thomas is a valued and routinely relied and depended-upon family member and a valued member of the community.

"There have been a number of bereavements of close family members recently which has had an effect on her and she has been picking up the pieces of those closest to her. This does not excuse her behaviour but she is a lady who would find it very hard in custody. She is suffering from mental ill health and physical ill health having suffered from a stroke and two hip replacements."

Addressing the mother-of-one and grandmother-of-two, Recorder Patrick Harrington QC said Thomas had done something very serious.

He said: "No mention has been made of your lifestyle and I know what the money has been spent on. It was spent on an expensive holiday wasn't it? You were not the instigator of this but you continued the relationship and you continued claiming the money for a very long time.

"Benefit fraud is rife and costs honest hardworking people a lot of money. You committed offences which aggregated more than £41,000. That is a great deal of money and it is your fault that you have found yourself in this position now."

Thomas was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place on November 13 to determine how much Thomas will be ordered to pay back.

After the case Donna James, senior leader for fraud in south Wales for the DWP, said: "This is a blatant act of fraud. As a department we are taking action to retrieve overpayments but also any assets amassed while the offences that have been committed were ongoing."

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23 Jul 2018

DWP investigator helped her husband with benefits fraud

As a benefits fraud investigator, Alexandra Stevens had been trained in how to spot bogus claims.

But that didn’t deter her from turning to fraud herself.

The 49-year-old is facing an uncertain future after being convicted of helping her husband to fraudulently claim £29,000 in handouts.

She was found guilty of providing the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), for whom she worked as a fraud investigator, with dishonest information on a claim form she filled in for her husband Paul, 70. He, too, was convicted of benefits fraud.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard that forms submitted to back the benefits claims alleged that Mr Stevens needed care seven days a week to help with bathing, dressing, cooking, getting in and out of cars, and getting in and out of bed.

He was said to be in constant pain, which had got worse over the years, and to need crutches to get around.

It was also claimed that Mr Stevens could walk only 40 to 60 yards at a time after suffering severe back pain for 20 years. But when confronted over his benefits claims, the pensioner admitted he had walked up to 1,000 yards on some occasions.

And photographs and video footage shown to the jury were said to paint a different picture.

One showed Mr Stevens on a zip wire in a children’s play park. Another showed him up a tree pruning it with a saw. And a video clip showed him kneeling doing some gardening. Another photograph found at the couple’s home showed him ‘frolicking’ in the sea.

Mr Stevens had painkillers for his condition. But when investigators raided the couple’s home in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, in November 2016 they found unused stocks of painkilling drugs.

John Livingstone, prosecuting, said: ‘He (Mr Stevens) never reported to the DWP any changes in circumstances. His wife, has quite frankly, assisted him in his criminality.’

He said Mrs Stevens must have seen that it was necessary to report that the need for care for her husband was less. ‘It is amazing – considering what her job was – not to report that or advise her husband to report that change to the DWP,’ he said.

Before she joined the Essex North DWP investigation team in November 2015, Mrs Stevens worked in a similar capacity for Tendring District Council in Essex, focusing on housing and council tax fraud. She was sacked by the DWP last July.

Mrs Stevens, who married her husband in 2006, told the court she had put in his forms what he had told her – and filled them in because she had neater handwriting than him. She said she did not think that she had put anything dishonest or inaccurate in the forms.

She was convicted of one charge of dishonest representation to obtain benefit but cleared of another similar offence.

Mr Stevens was convicted of failing to notify a change of circumstances, and of making dishonest representation to obtain benefit. He was cleared of another charge of making dishonest representation.

Both had pleaded not guilty to all charges. They will be sentenced next month.

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18 Jul 2018

Slow benefit fraud enforcers can't find offender - from 2012!

Cotswold taxpayers are set to foot a near-£8,000 bill as council chiefs can't find a housing benefit claimant who received thousands more than she should have.

The district council cannot locate Agnieszka Lopatka, who received £8,004 in housing benefits across a two-year period after registering her address in the Melville Estate, Bourton-on-the-Water.

The council now have to use local taxpayers' cash to plug the £7,889 black hole until they trace Mrs Lopatka.

Officials first noticed the overpayments to Mrs Lopatka on October 8 2012 when she received £230 over two weeks, and failed to declare she no longer lived at her Bourton-on-the-Water address and re-located to Swindon.

The council's benefit fraud investigation team then found they were being advised to cancel Mrs Lopatka's housing benefit from 2011 because evidence showed that she had been living with her partner and was not living in Bourton-on-the-Water.

The review found Mrs Lopatka received £7,774.14 between May 2 2011 to June 3 2012.

Invoices and reminder notices were sent to Mrs Lopatka at her Swindon address, a document states ahead of the council's cabinet meeting.

The council had asked Swindon Borough Council twice over two months for details of Mrs Lopatka but never received a response. zzzz

The authority's legal department took the matter to the County Court, where the case progressed to the High Court but no enforcement was actioned as law chiefs were not able to trace her. ££££

The Government's tax department HMRC were also unsuccessful in finding her whereabouts.

The authority used a council tax credit of £115 for the Bourton-on-the-Water address to reduce the overpayment, leaving taxpayers' money to fill the hole at £7,889.

Efforts are still being made to locate Mrs Lopatka, who could not be contacted for comment.

Cotswold District Council's cabinet will decide whether vote through the write-off on July 19 at 4pm.

Source

So how much has this very belated enforcement action cost local taxpayers?

13 Jul 2018

Benefit fraudster had health issues

A fraudster who posed as her own mother to make ill-gained claims trousered £4,599 of taxpayers’ money.

Jenna Fritter, 29, was hauled before Folkestone Magistrates’ Court on two counts of fraud by false representation after pleading guilty at a previous hearing.

Fritter, from South Ashford, was snared juggling care allowance packages between two bank accounts in 2016 and 2015, the court heard.

Prosecutor Neil Sweeney added the benefits cheat posed as her own mother, Alison Fritter, to dupe the government into handing over the cash.

“There appears to be transfers of carers’ allowances, it changes particularly between two accounts,” he said.

"Miss Fritter in an interview said that the claims were made by her mum. Her mum made a statement to the effect that she did not make a claim at all.”

Fritter hung her head in the dock as Mr Sweeney read evidence to district judge Justin Barron.

The fraud was committed in December 2015 and June 2016, while Fritter was on a suspended sentence for assault, the court heard.

But after Judge Barron read a report detailing Miss Fritter’s “significant mental health issues,” he said: “I am not going to send you to jail today. I have read your psychiatric report and the issues you have had and you have made progress. I don’t think it’s useful to consider Miss Fritter to a curfew.”

There were gasps of relief in the dock from Fritter’s friend and partner as the verdict was passed.

Judge Barron said Fritter, who is on benefits and deemed unfit for work, must serve 15 rehabilitation days to “help maintain progress” on a 12-month community order.

Defending solicitor Stuart Green added efforts should continue to be made on improving Fritter’s mental health.

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2 Jul 2018

Light benefit fraud penalty after long delay

A Rossett woman has escaped a jail term after being found guilty of two charges of benefit fraud at Wrexham Magistrates.

Laura Sharpe, 31, had initially entered a not guilty plea for failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in her circumstances, in relation to income support and housing benefit payments, but was convicted at trial.

Rhian Jackson, prosecuting, said that Sharpe, a mother of two children had fraudulently claimed benefits of more than £10k between December 2014 and March 2016 despite clearly maintaining a common household with her partner, Gareth Dodd.

Ms Jackson said that surveillance of the property was conducted by DWP during February/March 2016 and Mr Dodd was identified by them on 38 separate occasions, both leaving and arriving at the property in either his work van or his silver BMW, which was registered with the DVLA under his name.

Ms Jackson explained there had been lots of evidence against Sharpe, who had been asked on numerous occasions by DWP to update them if her circumstances had changed.

Melissa Griffiths, defending, said that the charges had been hanging over Sharpe for some time, and despite her not guilty plea at trial, now accepted the verdict of the court that she had failed to disclose information to DWP.

On handing Sharpe a 12 month community order, Deputy District Judge Meirion Lewis-Jones said the evidence against Sharpe was overwhelming and as a result had come close to being subjected to prison, with her previous good record going in her favour.

He said: "Benefit fraud is becoming all too prevalent these days, which is depressing."

Part of the community order includes a 15 day rehabilitation requirement with Sharpe also ordered to pay a total of £485.

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25 Jun 2018

Benefit fraud case takes years to reach court

A Rossett woman has escaped a jail term after being found guilty of two charges of benefit fraud at Wrexham Magistrates.

Laura Sharpe, 31, had initially entered a not guilty plea for failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in her circumstances, in relation to income support and housing benefit payments, but was convicted at trial.

Rhian Jackson, prosecuting, said that Sharpe, a mother of two children had fraudulently claimed benefits of more than £10k between December 2014 and March 2016 despite clearly maintaining a common household with her partner, Gareth Dodd.

Ms Jackson said that surveillance of the property was conducted by DWP during February/March 2016 and Mr Dodd was identified by them on 38 separate occasions, both leaving and arriving at the property in either his work van or his silver BMW, which was registered with the DVLA under his name.

Ms Jackson explained there had been lots of evidence against Sharpe, who had been asked on numerous occasions by DWP to update them if her circumstances had changed.

Melissa Griffiths, defending, said that the charges had been hanging over Sharpe for some time, and despite her not guilty plea at trial, now accepted the verdict of the court that she had failed to disclose information to DWP.

On handing Sharpe a 12 month community order, Deputy District Judge Meirion Lewis-Jones said the evidence against Sharpe was overwhelming and as a result had come close to being subjected to prison, with her previous good record going in her favour.

He said: "Benefit fraud is becoming all too prevalent these days, which is depressing."

Part of the community order includes a 15 day rehabilitation requirement with Sharpe also ordered to pay a total of £485.

Source

10 May 2018

Our wide open benefits system

A failed Algerian asylum seeker who used five fake identities to fraudulently claim £370,000 in benefits has been jailed for five years.

Saif Boudemagh, 41, used a forged French identity card to illegally enter the UK in March, 2000 but his asylum appeal failed.

Boudemagh continued to appeal and eventually obtained residency in 2004, two years after marrying UK citizen Paula Boudemagh.

The father-of-one, was given a one-bed council flat in Upper Holloway, London and immediately began claiming benefits once he received his National Insurance number.

He claimed to be the carer of his wife and since February, 2009 claimed Income Support as single-parent of their son, now aged fourteen years-old.

The bogus claimant who received full British citizenship in October, 2007 was convicted of twelve counts of fraud by a Blackfriars Crown Court jury totalling £370,000.

As well as his own bogus applications Boudemagh made up people and claimed benefits for them.

Between June, 2007 and April, 2015 he made multiple claims using fake French identities for Housing Benefit.

He used the same names to apply for council tax benefits, income support, carer's allowance, incapacity benefit, employment support allowance, (ESA) and disability living allowance, (DLA).

He pocketed £16,798 for looking after non-existent friend called Jamel Bensaid, 42, whose id was used to get a staggering £174,000 in various benefits.

Benefit claims were made in the name of Sidhamad Ayad, 39. This identity netted the con artist a £41,746 in employment support benefits after Boudemagh concocted a bogus tale this claimant needed a walking stick and toilet hand rails. Another £14,251 was paid out in disability living allowance for the same man and £22,519 was given in housing benefit.

He also used fake French identity documents to make benefit claims in name of Allel Zerabib, 44, and Taric Ziad, 45, and 'hijacked' the genuine identity of Frenchwoman Nadia Regad, 42.

The married mum-of-two was living in Paris, but her identity was used to claim £4,235 as a carer for 'Mr Zerabib' who received £25,000 in disability benefits. This bogus identity was also exploited to collect £46,000 in housing benefit and council tax benefit.

Boudemagh pocketed a further £14,626 in DLA using the Ziad identity.

The DWP paid benefits on the basis the claimants had depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, varicose veins, lower back pain and in one case a disabled finger.

He even used a disabled Freedom Pass in a false identity to enjoy free transport around the capital.

Boudemagh's flat was raided on April 7, 2015 and documents were found in the names of the false claimants as well as bank cards for accounts the money was paid into.

Boudemagh told the jury he was innocently completing benefit claim forms as an English-speaker for members of the close-knit north London Algerian community. But it was found the people did not exist.

The prosecution argued its case successfully, having the Algerian convicted on all but five counts.

Prosecutor Mr Andrew Evans said: 'A false French passport was also submitted as proof of identity in support of these claims and the photo on this passport is that of the defendant. His mobile phone number is given as the claimants' contact number.'

The conman's brother Redouane Boudemagh, 46, an illegal immigrant, receiving three years imprisonment for a £218,000 scam last year.

Shockingly, Boudemagh was still in receipt of housing benefit and child tax credits up to the day of his imprisonment, but he will not face confiscation proceedings because no assets have been found. The DWP say the only way they can recover any money is by making small deductions to any benefits he receives after his release.

'This defendant played a leading role in the offending, involving at least one other,' said Mr. Evans. 'It was a sophisticated offence requiring planning and the hijacking of identities to claims benefits and completion of medical evidence.'

Judge Jane Sullivan told him last week: 'It cannot be said you showed remorse. You fought the case in the face of overwhelming evidence.'

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Deportation should beckon. But probably won't.