Showing posts with label tax credit fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tax credit fraud. Show all posts

13 Feb 2020

Judge attacks lax monitoring of fraudulent benefits scheme

A benefit fraud scam in which women pretended to be cleaners at schools cost the taxpayer almost £1m, a court heard.

Ringleaders Mohamed Goth, 66, and Feisal Aw-Isse Sadi, 43, have been jailed for eight and five years in their absence respectively after fleeing the country.

And 21 women from Manchester's Somalian community were also in the dock, following five crown court trials and a prosecution which a judge estimated may have cost another £1m in lawyers' and translators' fees, as well as court time.

Manchester Crown Court heard that the women were employed as 'cleaners' at two schools set up on Claremont Road, in Rusholme.

Goth and Sadi were directors of Iftiin Educational and Skills Centre Ltd, set up in a converted terraced house, and Hilaal Child Care, also known as Sherwood Education and Training Centre, established in a former pub.

Up to 20 'cleaners' were employed at both sites, in a staff size which Judge Anthony Cross QC said would have been more fitting for Manchester town hall, rather than businesses in a 'two up two down' properties.

He said: "This was a cleaning staff that would probably equate to that employed at the town hall here in Manchester, yet no one until the fraud was rumbled seemed to have noticed this remarkable fact."

Despite this, environmental health staff were called out separately after there was found to be a 'pest infestation' in a kitchen area.

The judge said the officers found 'few if any cleaning materials'.

Instead of cleaning, the women would sit in a room waiting for their children to finish the lessons, where English, maths and science were taught by 'well meaning' but inexperienced young people, often just out of university.

The women would sometimes 'tidy up a little litter' or 'occasionally mop up a spillage', the court heard.

The scam allowed Goth and Sadi to generate tax credit and benefit claims, so that the pair could obtain 'wholly unrealistic' payments to their companies to the tune of about £870,000.

By finding this 'work', this meant that the women could move from claiming job seeker's allowance to working tax credits, and would make them entitled to other benefits including housing and council tax benefit.

By moving onto different benefits the women did not have to attend meetings or appointments associated with job seeker's allowance, the judge said.

"The real purpose was so that the conspiracy could trigger the entitlement to working tax credit," the judge said.

Over many months, the women claimed more benefits than they were entitled to, with some receiving more than £20,000.

Judge Cross said: "The allegation then and now was that approximately £1m of public funds had been defrauded. It would not be surprising if the conduct of Goth, Sadi and these women and the other defendants have cost the public in excess of £2m.

"These defendants lived in an area in which there is considerable deprivation, where over time public services have been eroded. It is simplistic to apply simple arithmetic to this complex problem, but what good might have been done with the money wasted by these women, by those in their community who are in need?

"My concern is that this fraud was so blatant and organised that others of its type are in existence in Manchester."

The judge called for an urgent investigation to be conducted by the authorities to establish whether there are similar frauds taking place currently.

He also raised concerns at an apparent lack of background checks on the teachers who worked at the school.

"It is difficult to understand how any inspector concerned who had the interests of children as their paramount consideration could give approval to this place as an educational establishment," the judge said. "It also defies belief that it was considered safe to let young children into these premises."

The fraud was uncovered by the Department for Work and Pensions after a 'random computer check'.

Goth, formerly of Howcroft Street, Bolton, now thought to be in Somalia, and Sadi, formerly of Dunworth Street, Rusholme, whose whereabouts are not known, were convicted of conspiracy to defraud and both received jail terms which will start if and when they are arrested.

All 21 women appeared in court for sentence on Tuesday afternoon.

The majority of the defendants had to sit in the area of court usually reserved for juries as the dock was already full.

All of the women, who live within Manchester's Somalian community, were spared jail and ordered to carry out unpaid work.

"This fraud must have been well known to those who frequented this place," the judge said. "I have no doubt that each woman believed that she was on to a good thing and was happy to let it continue."

The judge warned the women: "If you don't do the work, you will go to jail."

More with pictures

22 Jul 2019

HMRC misses fraud & error targets

HMRC missed its target for reducing fraud and error in personal tax credit overpayments last year, the public spending watchdog has said.

Erroneous and fraudulent overpayments increased to 5.7% of tax credits spending (£1.46bn) which exceeded the department’s target of 5% in 2017-18, according to a report by the National Audit Office.

The most recent estimates of fraud and error apply to 2017-18 but HMRC also expects to see higher levels of fraud and error in 2018-19, according to the NAO.

This because 270 full-time equivalent staff were moved from fraud and error workstreams onto EU exit ones, reducing its capacity.


1 Apr 2019

Benefit cheat mother said she was single

A benefit cheat fiddled nearly £30,000 in much-needed public money after keeping quiet that her husband was living with her and supporting her.

She later came clean about abusing the system and was repaying £400 a month, a court heard.

Jackie Sawyer, 33, from Crowle, admitted two offences of failing to notify a change in her circumstances and another of being concerned in fraudulently obtaining tax credits.

Nigel Clive, prosecuting, told Grimsby Crown Court that Sawyer wrongly claimed Income Support, housing benefit and child support for 104 weeks over a period of about two years between 2014 and 2017.

She falsely obtained £29,838 by saying that she was a single parent living alone when, in reality, her husband was living there and was supporting her.

The claim was not, however, fraudulent from the outset.

"There is no evidence that this defendant is living an extravagant lifestyle," said Mr Clive.

Siward James-Moore, mitigating, said that Sawyer carried out the fraud after she stopped work for the first time in her life following difficulties.

She had no previous convictions and "came clean" by making admissions and had been repaying £400 a month since March last year.

She had six-year-old twin boys and was a carer for her father.

Judge John Thackray QC told Sawyer: "You have committed serious offences. That's much-needed public money and you have abused the system."

Sawyer was given a four-month suspended prison sentence, 100 hours' unpaid work and 15 days' rehabilitation.

Source with picture

14 Jan 2019

HMRC officer in tax credit fraud

An HMRC officer abused her position to fraudulently claim £18,000 in tax credits after lying about her marriage break-up. (h/t Dave)

Tracey Griffiths used the cash for £3,000 cosmetic surgery, a new car and several expensive holidays.

Griffiths, aged 37, from Wordsley, Dudley, lied about a marriage break up and claimed the benefits as a single person between 2014 and 2016.

She was handed a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months at Warwick Crown Court.

She was also ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work. She had been found guilty of fraudulently claiming £18,863.61 of tax credits on or between February 2014 and April 2016.

Griffiths, who worked for HMRC during the two-year fraud, claimed to have separated from her husband in February 2014.

But she was still living with him in Kingswinford, they had been on holiday together seven times and they both posted messages on Facebook to celebrate their first wedding anniversary in September 2014.

The couple’s finances also ran in tandem and Mr Griffiths had bought his wife a car and paid £3,000 for her to have cosmetic surgery.

Adrian De Ath, Assistant Director, Internal Governance, HMRC, said: “This was a gross breach of trust. Griffiths exploited her position and used her detailed knowledge of the tax credits system to claim money she knew she was not entitled to. Corruption amongst our staff is rare and will not be tolerated. HMRC expects the very highest standards of behaviour from all staff. There is no place within HMRC for criminals like Griffiths. We will now work hard to recover the proceeds of her crime.”

Griffiths had worked for HMRC since 2002 and was working at an office in Wolverhampton. She had an in depth knowledge of tax credits, having previously worked as a tax credits compliance officer.

She was dismissed from HMRC in May 2017 and found guilty on November 23 2018 following a trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

In sentencing her at Warwick Crown Court, Judge Peter Cooke said: “Over a protracted period of time through thorough dishonesty and an inside knowledge of the tax credit system you inflated your household income through fraud. The evidence was clear and compelling. What was also pretty compelling is that a good chunk of that surplus was spent of foreign holidays, which you could not have afforded on your legitimate income. You wanted a better lifestyle and you have shown no hint of remorse.”

Griffiths was handed a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.

Source with picture

3 Dec 2018

HMRC think tax credit fraud will rise!

HMRC is struggling to control tax credit fraud and the “cracks are showing”, MPs have said. Error and fraud in tax credits cost the taxpayer £1.3bn in 2016-17 alone, and the department expects the rate of overpayments to grow further, the Public Accounts Committee found.

The committee said it was “disappointing” that HMRC says it will be unable meet its target of keeping error and fraud below 5% of tax credit payments. HMRC expects the fraud and error rate to rise to 5.5% in 2017-18 and to 6% in 2018-19.

Meg Hillier, chair of the PAC, said: “HMRC is under pressure and in some areas the cracks are showing. The authority expects fraud and errors in tax credits to exceed its target in successive years, driven in part by policy changes that have effectively removed HMRC’s incentive to bring fraud and errors under control".


30 Nov 2018

Benefit fraud investigator fiddled tax credits

A Stourbridge woman who worked as a benefit fraud investigator has been warned she could be facing time behind bars after she fiddled nearly £19,000 from the system.

Tracey Griffiths - a mother of three - had been described by her Inland Revenue co-workers and friends as highly reliable and motivated.

But over a two year period the 36-year-old illegally pocketed a total of £18,863 by maintaining she and her husband Stewart were no longer a couple.

Judge Peter Cooke told Griffiths it was serious offending as he remanded her on bail until Monday December 17 for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. He said he could give Griffiths no indication as to what sentence would be imposed but he warned her the crime had "exposed her to the risk of immediate custody."

Griffiths had pleaded not guilty to fraudulently claiming tax credits but she was convicted by a jury on an 11-1 majority verdict.

The six man six woman panel had retired to consider the evidence for just over four hours at the end of her trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Paul Mytton, prosecuting, said Griffiths had been well regarded in the investigation of benefit fraud and it was unlikely she would have been suspected of making a false claim.

"It was an ideal cover," he told the jury as he described Griffiths as an intelligent woman who knew the system well.

He said Griffiths had not been entitled to the money she fiddled. "She was not entitled to it because she was not single."

Griffiths had alleged she had separated from her husband and she made an application for tax credit while the couple were living together in Kingswinford.

But the prosecution said they enjoyed family holidays and the pair put a post on social media celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

Luke Ponte, defending, said Griffiths' domestic life had been "messy and complicated" but he stressed she had not acted fraudulently. A woman of previous good character, she had been entitled to make the claim and she had opened herself up to full scrutiny.

Griffiths is now expected to be sentenced at Warwick Crown Court where the judge normally dispenses justice.


2 May 2018

Mother admits fraudulently claiming nearly £13k in benefits

A Glenrothes woman has pled guilty to fraudulently claiming almost £13,000 in benefits.

Kelly Young appeared at Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court where she admitted two charges of stealing tax credits and housing benefit.

The 25-year-old admitted falsely claiming £9194 in tax credits from HMRC after stating she lived alone between March 20 2015 and October 5 2016.

The young mother was, in fact, living with her partner Martyn Stewart, who was in paid employment during the 15 month period.

The court also heard how the fraudster falsely claimed £3772 in housing benefit from Fife Council.

The charge stated she failed to promptly notify the prescribed person in a timely manner to a change in her circumstances which affected her entitlement.

Young spoke only to confirm her guilty plea to Sheriff Pino Di Emidio.

She was ordered to undergo various reports and will be accessed to see if she is suitable for a Restriction of Liberty order.

The first-offender was told to return to court on May 17 when she will be sentenced.

Sheriff Di Emidio said: “I’m going to call for a Criminal Justice Social Work report. As you appear in front of me as a first offender, it would is very important that you cooperate with these reports. Once these reports have been done, I will decided how to deal with this matter.”

Young was originally charged with fraudulently claiming more than £26,000 in both housing and tax credits.

She initially pled not guilty to the two charges at previous hearings.

But she yesterday admitted the amended charges which state that she claimed £12,966 in benefits to which she was not entitled.

The dates in between which she was alleged to have stolen the benefits were also changed.


30 Apr 2018

Primary school teacher avoids jail after £37k benefits con

A primary school teacher who fraudulently claimed almost £40,000 while failing to notify the authorities her husband was living with her has avoided jail. (h/t Dave)

Olamide Ononeme went on family holidays to Egypt, America and Turkey and built up a bank account balance of £21,500 while carrying out the fraud.

The 42-year-old claimed tax credit payments on the basis she was a single mother of three over three years, despite her husband living at the home in Gough Drive in Tipton.

In total, she claimed £37,859 from November in 2011 to October in 2014.

Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how she was caught out when investigators found a Facebook picture of Olamide and her husband Aruoriwo celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary.

Recorder Anupama Thompson gave mother-of-three Olamide a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, and ordered she do 150 hours unpaid work.

Olamide had pleaded guilty to one count of fraud at an earlier hearing.

Her husband, 47, who siphoned thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money while working as benefits officer for Sandwell and Walsall Council, was jailed for 30 months last month.

Sentencing Olamide, Mrs Thompson said: “You made a claim for tax credit when your husband left in 2011. It seems he returned after and rather than telephoning the authority as you knew you had a duty to do, you continued to claim tax credits. It went on for a period of almost three years.”

Caroline Harris, prosecuting, said Olamide had opportunities to notify the authorities when calling up to alert a change in her income in 2013 and 2014.

She said her bank balance went up from £2,500 in 2012 to £21,500 in 2014.

The family also went on holidays to Egypt, America and Turkey, she said.

Tariq Shakoor, defending, said Olamide, who works at a school in Wolverhampton, was not living a living a lavish lifestyle on the proceeds.

He added: “She let herself down because she is a lady of strong Christian values. She is remorseful.” (Ridiculous)

The Facebook picture which revealed the fraud showed the couple and came with a caption written by Aruoriwo saying ‘To God be the glory for 13 glorious, fruitful and happy years of marriage today’.

The joyous words were entered on his Facebook page for all to see on October 9 2012 - 11 months after Olamide had started claiming tax credit on the basis that she was a single mother.

Years later the post helped to prove his wife pocketed tens of thousands of pounds by lying about the state of their marriage when DWP investigators launched an inquiry on behalf of HMRC following a tip off.

The defendant phoned tax credit officials in December 2013 and December 2014 to discuss changes in her personal circumstances without admitting she and her husband were living together in Gough Drive, Tipton. She also failed to tell the truth when filling in annual declaration forms.

Her husband used the address as his own for financial matters such as a mortgage application on March 20 2014 and Walsall Council confirmed he gave the house in Gough Road as his home while working for them.

To make it worse for the corrupt couple he used his position as a finance officer to defraud both Walsall and Sandwell councils out of more than £15,000.

Aruoriwo was employed by both at different times through an agency between 2007 and 2011, before getting a job as a benefits appeal officer with Walsall Council.

He used his knowledge of the system to create fake characters - one of whom was supposed to be Wolverhampton University student and the other supposedly lived at the buy-to-let flat he owned in St Michael’s Street, Walsall - to make bogus claims in their names for single person council tax exemption and housing benefit.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of abusing his position by fraudulently claiming housing benefit, two charges of creating false documents, two offences of failing to disclose he was living as a married, rather than a single, man and one count of falsely claiming he was leaving the UK to live in the United Arab Emirates.

The Crown Prosecution Service will now decide if they want to pursue the money claimed by Olamide. Why wouldn't they?

Source with pictures

Her husband was jailed for defrauding us of £15k. Presumably unemployment beckons for his wife after her light sentence.

6 Apr 2018

Benefit cheat who scammed £75k claiming to be single mum jailed for 2 years

A benefit scammer whose £75,000 fraud was rumbled after a bitter row over her dead partner’s estate has been jailed for more than two years.

The Daily Record told how Angela Clark lied about being a single mum for 12 years – while living with partner David Ellis.

He died in December 2014 following a battle with bile duct and liver cancer – sparking a row with his parents Jennifer and Stewart Ellis over a £126,000 inheritance.

The couple revealed how Clark spent hundreds of pounds on air tickets for a relative and used David’s bank account to make other purchases – just hours after his death.

Stewart, 68, said: “She has no shame. David passed away at 9pm on the Friday – on the Saturday morning she used his private account to buy the ticket for her cousin and a mattress.”

Despite lying to the DWP for 12 years that she was a single mum, her name appeared on David’s tombstone, which says “loving partner of Angela”.

Clark later told lawyers handling the row with his mother that she had been living constantly with him for almost 20 years.

Yesterday, a sheriff told Clark she had committed a “fraud on the entire community” and jailed her for 26 months.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard David had a full-time job with BT and funded the family to “go on holiday all over the world”.

Clark repeatedly told the DWP she was single to keep receiving payments totalling £75,616.05 over 12 years.

Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told the court: “His mother told DWP the couple had lived as husband and wife since 1995 or 1996 until his death and that he would pay most of the bills because she was ‘continually getting into debt’.”

Clark, 40, of Fintry Road, Dundee, pled guilty to a charge under the Tax Credits Act committed between 2002 and David’s death in 2014.


Did it only come out because of a family argument?

18 Mar 2018

Tax fraudster in HMRC jailed

A father of three who committed an “appalling” £40,000 benefit fraud while working as a tax adviser in an HMRC contact centre in Bradford has been jailed for 20 months.

Amjad Khan, 37, evaded paying the correct amount of income tax for 13 years between 2002 and 2015, also claiming tax credits he was not entitled to between 2006 and 2015.

Prosecutor Howard Shaw told Bradford Crown Court that between December 2004 and June 2014, Khan worked with HMRC to advise people on the PAYE and self-assessment tax systems. Throughout his time in that role, he owned property which he rented out, and also started his own business as a gas and heating engineer in 2012.

Mr Shaw said that on analysing Khan’s bank accounts, it was discovered he had failed to declare any income from his properties or self-employment aside from in the 2014/15 financial year, in which he claimed to have made a loss. The records showed that he had actually made a profit each year.

After the figures had been examined by a forensic accountant, all parties in the case agreed that Khan had received £23,309 in tax credits that he was not eligible to receive.

Mr Shaw said that the prosecution found that Khan avoided paying £18,554 in income tax, with Emma Downing, defending, putting the figure at £15,791.

A hearing under The Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup the money was scheduled for September.

Mr Shaw said: “This is a case involving significant abuse of a position of trust and responsibility. The defendant worked as an adviser for the revenue. He was advising on tax matters and engaged in two tax frauds. This was fraudulent activity over a long period of time.”

Khan, from Bradford, pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud.

Miss Downing said her client had lost his “good character” as a result of his offending, adding that any confiscation proceedings could put his business and family home “in jeopardy.”

She said her client’s offending was “completely out of character”, but the Recorder of Bradford, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC, said Khan’s “very blatant” actions were a “two-pronged attack upon the revenue.”

He told Khan: “Throughout all the years you were working for HMRC, advising people of the rights and wrongs and the very nature of the tax system, you yourself were committing fraud against the state. The position you were occupying, the lies you were telling, it must fall into the higher culpability range.

“You have committed quite appalling and blatant frauds in a very determined and persistent way. The public would be outraged if the court did not deal with you in this robust way.”


22 Feb 2018

HMRC worker fiddled her tax credits

A mum-of-four who stole nearly £50,000 of tax credits while working for HMRC was spared jail – because of her children.

Nicola Shaw, 37, was an administrative officer in the government department’s “claimant compliance team” benefits section.

Her job involved claim investigations and sending out forms so claimants could notify the taxman if their circumstances changed.

But for six years Shaw pretended to be a single mum after her ex-partner moved back into their Wirral home and they married.

Judge Andrew Menary, QC, today said: “The claim document makes crystal clear that you were obliged to report that fact. The public, reading of this case, would be horrified to discover that somebody occupying that position would have behaved in the way you did. It means you knew full well what your responsibilities were.”

Liverpool Crown Court heard Shaw started a relationship with her ex-partner Richard Hamblett in 1997 and joined HMRC in 1999.

David Watson, prosecuting, said the couple bought a house in West Kirby in 2003 and had their first child in 2004.

They made a legitimate joint tax credit claim in July 2004, before phoning HMRC in November to say Mr Hamblett had moved out.

Shaw made a second, initially legitimate claim on December 1, 2004 – stating she was a single mum – which ran until April 6, 2015.

She was required to inform HMRC of any change in circumstances within 30 days and to return an annual declaration form.

The benefit cheat falsely completed these annual forms and failed to respond to 39 separate “award notice” checklist letters.

Mr Watson said: “She clearly reunited with Mr Hamblett and they in fact married on March 4, 2006. On September 30, 2007 they had a second child and on October 30, 2010, a third.”

Prosecutors accepted the couple split up in January 2012, sold their house in August that year and divorced in 2013.

The single claim ended when Shaw married her second husband, Kevin Shaw, who attended court to support his wife.

Mr Watson said the overpayment of £48,778.94 would be recovered by HMRC’s internal debt management unit.

Shaw told police her relationship with Mr Hamblett was “characterised by domestic violence” and she often stayed at her mum’s home. She claimed they split up three days into their honeymoon and the two additional children were “forced upon her”.

The mum, who has no previous convictions, admitted fraud on the first day of a trial on February 12.

However, in a pre-sentence report, she claimed she thought HMRC would have been aware of her position because her name changed.

Shaw cried in the dock when Judge Menary said she was “not a good role model for her children”.

He criticised her “continued pretence that she had no idea there was a great responsibility on her to report these things”.

Anna Duke, defending, argued it was “a miscommunication rather than a pretence” and said “frightened” Shaw had “buried her head in the sand”.

She said her client was “terrified” of being jailed, which would have an “extreme knock-on effect” on her family. Ms Duke said her parents were not in good health and if she was jailed, her husband might have to reduce his working hours.

Judge Menary said he “utterly rejected” the excuses given by Shaw, who “sought to lie her way out of it”.

But he said: “If I send you to prison today, a sentence which in many ways you richly deserve and the public would expect, there will be significant consequences for your children. It’s the immediate and potentially long term consequences for the children of losing their mother that drives me to the conclusion that it would not be appropriate to send you to prison.”

Judge Menary handed Shaw seven months in jail, suspended for two years, plus 150 hours of unpaid work and a 15-day rehabilitation activity requirement.


15 Dec 2017

Tax credit fraud investigator sentenced for tax credit fraud

A Co Antrim woman employed by HMRC to track down tax credit cheats has been handed a suspended jail sentence ... for stealing more than £34,000 in tax credits.

Laura Southern, 36, from Lisburn, worked as a benefits and credits compliance manager in Belfast until she was identified as having falsely claimed to be a single parent despite living with a partner.

She was interviewed by investigators in February in relation to providing false information to HMRC.

Southern, who had worked for HMRC for 16 years, was dismissed in August, having fraudulently claimed £34,209.44 in tax credits between 2012 and 2017.

Joff Parsons of HMRC said: “Southern was employed to track down people committing the very crime she has been convicted of. She knew exactly what she was doing and even though she knew it was wrong, thought she could get away with stealing tax credits she wasn’t entitled to. But her deceit was exposed and now she is paying the price.”

Southern appeared at Craigavon Crown Court and was given a 15-month prison sentence suspended for three years.


24 Oct 2017

Easy benefit fraud

A mum who swindled more than £75,000 in tax credits to splash out on plastic surgery and luxury American holidays to Las Vegas and Florida has been jailed for two years. (h/t Fraudmanager)

Tammy Gunter, 41, from Cefn Fforest, wrongly claiming tax credits by saying she was single – when she was secretly married to the father of her two children.

A court heard Gunter and her husband Neil Hart, 45, lived a “lavish” lifestyle after wrongly claiming taxpayers’ money.

Prosecutor Nuhu Gobir said Gunter was granted tax credits by saying she was a single mum – and also made false claims for student finance and a £2,000 NHS bursary to train as a nurse.

The court heard the couple splurged the money on holidays to Vegas and Florida in 2011 and 2013 – and took out a US$30,000 loan for a holiday home in the US.

Mr Gobir told the court Gunter also travelled to Eastern Europe to undergo cosmetic plastic surgery.

He said: “She’s also known by her married name, Tammy Hart, and she uses her maiden name in her dealings with public bodies. The defendants were already in a relationship and had been living together as a family since December 5, 1997.”

He said Gunter claimed tax credits for nine years when she was working part-time in a shop and a garage.

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard Gunter even forged a letter purporting to be from HMRC.

Mr Gobir said: “Tammy Gunter made a claim that she was a single person working at least 16 hours per week. She stated that she had two children and no other income. The defendant dishonestly maintained she was single. She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.”

Gunter was handed £76,008.63 in tax credits between 2007 and 2016.

The court heard she also made fraudulent claims for student funding and an NHS bursary of £2,193 by saying she lived alone, when really she lived with Hart.

Mr Gobir said: “She stated that she was separated and was a single parent with two dependent children. Neil Hart lied about his address to assist Tammy Gunter with the application. The total loss to the public purse in effect is £87,450.”

The court heard that in 2014, Gunter sent a letter to Caerphilly County Borough Council purporting to be on HMRC-headed paper. But council officials became suspicious because it had a number of spelling errors.

The DWP, HMRC and the HS Counter Fraud Service Wales began a joint investigation in January 2015 and Gunter and Hart were arrested.

Gunter admitted being knowingly concerned in fraudulent activity undertaken with a view to obtaining tax credits, one count of forgery and four counts of fraud.

Byron Broadstock, defending Gunter, said the couple had a “tumultuous” relationship.

He said: “Many of the purchases that have been described as extravagant, they are out of the ordinary. They were often gestures in reconciliation.”

He said the plastic surgery “wasn’t simply for purely cosmetic reasons. It was psychological reasons.”

Hart admitted encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence, believing it would be committed.

Jeffrey Jones, defending Hart, said: “He allowed himself to be used in that by making one gesture, in relation to one matter – his own address.”

Gunter was jailed for two years, while her husband was jailed for six months.

Judge Peter Heywood told the couple: “That fraud occurred over a significant period of time. There was a degree of sophistication and planning involved.”

Speaking to Gunter, he said: “You have engaged in a significant course of dishonest conduct for a considerable period of time.”

To her husband he said: “You foolishly, Mr Hart, went along by providing false information, knowing full well what the full situation was.”


17 Jul 2017

And now tax credit fraud

Almost £1.6billion of tax credits have been overpaid in a year due to a rise in benefit fraud and errors by HM Revenue & Customs.

The National Audit Office watchdog warned the problem was set to get worse as HMRC becomes more overstretched, and hundreds of thousands of people on low incomes move from tax credits to the new Universal Credit system.

HMRC’s annual report revealed that an estimated £1.57billion of overpayments were made due to error and fraud in 2015/16.

This is up almost 15 per cent from £1.37billion in the previous year. It is the first increase since the Coalition came to power in 2010.

About 4.4million families claim working tax credits or child tax credits to top up their income.

For the first time since 2012/13, HMRC also missed its target of ensuring the amount overpaid due to fraud or error was less than 5 per cent of the total amount paid in tax credits.

The NAO said: ‘HMRC’s estimated increase in error and fraud within tax credits is contrary to the significant reductions achieved in previous years, and the rate is expected to increase further.’

HMRC sacked US firm Concentrix last October after bringing it in to crack down on fraud. It got rid of the firm in response to claims that 45,000 people were wrongly having their benefits removed. This means HMRC staff are having to counter fraud themselves. Tougher rules designed to stop bogus benefit claims are also likely to push up the fraud figures.

Last night Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone said: ‘People will be shocked to see that while their local schools and hospitals are facing cuts, almost £1.6billion of taxpayers’ cash has been paid out due to fraud or error. Meanwhile, some people are still not receiving the payments they deserve. The Government needs to get a grip.’

Frank Field, Labour MP and former chairman of the committee, said: ‘We need to safeguard taxpayers’ money.’


13 Jul 2017

Light sentences in tax credit fraud trials

Two members of an organised crime group, who attempted to claim £10.2million in tax credits using stolen identities of public sector employees, have been jailed.

A further two women were handed suspended sentences.

Adedamola Oyebode, 30, from Lewisham, worked as an events and marketing assistant for the Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC). In April and June 2009, she accessed the CSSC’s password protected membership system and stole personal details of 10,300 members.

Oyebode then passed the data to her brother-in-law, Oluwatobi Odeyemi, known as Emmanuel, 34, from Gravesend. He was a key facilitator in the criminal operation, managing the stolen data used to make false tax credits claims.

Emmanuel Odeyemi’s friend, Kayode Sanni, 38, from Leeds, ensured the stolen data was used to apply for tax credits. He recruited and managed a friend, Chantelle Gumbs, 34, also of Leeds. Her job was to request the tax credits application packs from HMRC used to make fraudulent tax credits claims. The gang completed the forms, adding details of bank accounts that had been set up to commit the fraud, and returned them to HMRC.

Investigators believe the fraudsters conspired with two others who are on the run, and are appealing for information on their whereabouts. Emmanuel Odeyemi’s brother Oluwagbenga Odeyemi, known as Stephen, 39, and Stephen’s wife Oluwatumininu Banjo, 40, also known as Tumi, are thought to be in Nigeria. The couple used to live in Dagenham, Greater London.

Simon York, Director of HMRC'sFraud Investigation Service, said: “These criminals launched an organised attack on the tax credits system, a system designed to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Thanks to the experience of HMRC's officers, the effectiveness of our counter-fraud checks, and an extremely complex criminal investigation, the fraud was stopped and HMRC prevented £8 million of false claims being paid to the criminals. We will continue to tackle those committing tax credits fraud and ask anyone who has information about the two Nigerian citizens who may be connected with this fraud to call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887.”

The scam was uncovered in late 2009 by HMRC’s identity fraud and risk teams concerned about the volume of new claims for civil servants, predominately for working tax credits. Their initial enquiries also highlighted potential sources of a data leak.

HMRC began a criminal investigation in April 2010 and through detailed forensic analysis, investigators uncovered the fraudsters, pieced together the scam, and identified the extent of the CSSC data loss.

HMRC’s investigators analysed tax credits records, recordings of phone calls to the tax credits helpline, banking data, notebooks, diaries, computer, email, and data storage devices, and mobile phone, text message and telephone records. An expert voice analyst gave evidence during Kayode Sanni’s trial.

Of the 10,300 identities stolen, 2504 were used to make fraudulent tax credits claims resulting in £2.4 million being paid out. Further claims were made but not paid but it is estimated that at least another £7.8 million would have been paid to the criminals, leading to a total attempted fraud of £10.2million.

Upon sentencing the fraudsters at the Old Bailey, His Honour Judge Dodgson, said: “It was a serious fraud that you all involved yourselves in”, adding to Sanni who stood trial, “the only remorse is that you got caught.”

Adedamola Oyebode was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years, at the Central Criminal Court on July 6. She must complete 160 hours of unpaid community work and is subject to a three month curfew.

Her brother-in-law Oluwatobi Odeyemi pleaded guilty on June 13 to his role in the conspiracy. He was jailed for three and a half years at the Central Criminal Court on July 6.

Kayode Sanni was found guilty of his role in the conspiracy at the Central Criminal Court on June 26 and remanded in custody. He was jailed for five years and three months at the same court on July 6.

Chantelle Charmaine Gumbs pleaded guilty on October 14, 2015 to her role in the conspiracy. Gumbs was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, at the Central Criminal Court on July 6 and also received a rehabilitation order.

Two others are on the run and HMRC is appealing for information about their whereabouts. Oluwagbenga Odeyemi, known as Stephen and Gbenga; and his wife Oluwatumininu Banjo, known as Tumi and Charmaine Davis, are thought to be in Nigeria.

The couple used to live in Dagenham, Greater London. Anyone with information about the two Nigerian citizens who may be connected with this fraud, can call the HMRC Fraud Hotline on 0800 788 887 or +44 203 080 0871 if calling from outside the UK.


30 Jun 2017

Can't jail £56k tax credit fraud mother

Even though this state employee was in a privileged position, which surely aggravated her deliberate fraud, she's effectively got away with her £56,000 theft because she has children.

A tax office worker acted ‘despicably’ by fraudulently claiming more than £56,000 in tax credits over seven years, a court heard. (h/t Fraudmanager)

Rebecca Gray, a customer services officer at the Dudley tax office, was in ‘a unique position’ to know that what she was doing was wrong, a judge told her but spared her a jail sentence.

Gray, aged 32, had lied when she claimed she had split from her partner and moved into her grandfather’s Wolverhampton home, making her eligible for a single parent’s tax credit allowance.

The mother-of-four had also understated the amount of maternity pay she received, entitling her to more maternity credit, whilst overstating the child care cover she needed.

She joined the Dudley tax office in 2006 when she started making a joint claim with her partner for child tax credits, said Ms Lynette McClement, prosecuting.

She alleged her relationship with her partner broke down in July 2014, and started claiming single parent’s tax credits, when in fact she was still living with him in Lower Gornal, Dudley.

But on various official forms after that date both had named the other as next of kin or emergency contact. They made council tax payments from a joint Lloyds Bank account registered at the Lower Gornal address.

The court heard she was double-claiming for the cost of child care.

Her partner was not facing similar charges because the false claims were made in her name.

Gray, who was sacked from her job at the tax office, was arrested in March last year.

A search warrant was issued for the Lower Gornal address where further evidence was found of the couple's co-habitation, including documents and, in the master bedroom, women's paraphernalia such as jewellery, handbags and make-up. A check with her grandfather showed she had not lived at his address for 11 years.

Gray had benefitted by £100 a week in maternity benefits and £275 a week in child care costs.

The total overpayment between 2009 to 2016, was £56,344, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard. It is expected this will be subject of a court case under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recoup the money.

Gray, of Brookdale, Lower Gornal, Dudley, pleaded guilty to four offences of contravening the Tax Credit Act.

She was sentenced to two years jail suspended for two years and given a 12-month supervision order.

Recorder Nicholas Syfret, QC, told her: “You behaved despicably. You were in a unique position to know that what you were doing was wrong. You richly deserve to go to prison immediately and if it wasn't for the fact you have four children, one of them just six months old, that is where you would be going. You behaved extremely stupidly."

Source with picture

14 Jun 2017

Suspended sentence for tax credit fraud

A woman has avoided jail after pleading guilty to working tax credit fraud which saw her claim £18,000 which she was not entitled to.

Danielle Hughes, 29, continued to claim working tax credit despite not being in work as she had begun maternity leave.

The defendant was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court after pleading guilty to fraudulently obtaining working tax credits, at the same hearing

Prosecutor Andrew Jones told the court that Hughes, of Treorchy, was originally entitled to claim working tax credits in March 2012 while working for Serco on a minimum hours contract. However her position changed in December 2012 when the defendant took maternity leave which meant she was no longer entitled to working tax credits, but she continued to claim until April 2015.

Mr Jones said: “The defendant was on maternity leave and she continued to carry out a working tax credit declaration to say she was working when she wasn’t.”

Hughes was interviewed by police in 2015, where she admitted the offence, claiming she feared she would not have enough income.

The case was that while Hughes was not entitled to working tax credits, she would have been entitled to income support.

It was claimed on her behalf that she was falsely claiming due to “ignorance” of benefits she was entitled to.

Her benefit situation was described as “a mess” and she had not been claiming what she was entitled to as she was worried about getting in trouble again.

Sentencing, Judge Michael Fitton QC said: “I am not going to impose an immediate prison sentence but because of the length of time the claim persisted, it was about two years, it has to be marked by a form of prison sentence but I am going to suspend it.”

Hughes was given a 16 week prison sentence suspended for two months and was made subject to a curfew for two months which prevents her from leaving her home between 9pm and 7am.

1 Jun 2017

Another fraudster undone by Facebook

A mother who posed as a single mum was caught out in a a £30,000 benefit fraud after her Facebook page gave her away.

Mold Crown Court heard how Tara Littlehales, 28, a mother of two, claimed tax credits as a single mum.

However, her Facebook page showed that she and her partner were living as a couple with their two kids and a surveillance operation was launched by the Department of Work and Pensions.

The court when challenged she spun a complicated story about how the pair had a joint mortgage but they were not living together and her partner had a gambling problem. John Philpotts, prosecuting, said there was no evidence her partner gambled to excess, or at all.

Littlehales, from Wrexham, admitted the fraud.

She received an eight-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and was ordered to carry out 200 hours unpaid work. She must pay £250 costs.

Mr Philpotts said that the total overpayment from the public purse was £35,000 but she would have been entitled to some £5,000.

Oliver King, defending, said the family had helped to get the money together and it was all available to pay back.

The Judge, Mr Recorder Timothy Petts, said Littlehales had falsely claimed about £8,000 a year – money to which she was not entitled - between February 2012 and December 2015. The money came out of the public purse - money meant to help people who deserved it, not for people like her. He said the tax credit claim had been legitimate to start but her circumstances changed and she had made several monthly declarations to say that they had not.

The Recorder warned that if she had been convicted after trial then she could have gone to prison for 12 months.

She was currently working at two jobs to ensure the money was repaid.

Mr King said his client had pleaded guilty at an early stage in the magistrates’ court and since her admissions to the offence the family had worked hard to cobble the funds together so that the overpayment could be paid in full. He said the money had been absorbed into general expenses. “There was no fast car on the drive or champagne in the fridge, no holidays or extravagant life-style,” said Mr King.


27 Apr 2017

£92k tax credit fraud nurse struck off - six years later

Cheryl Henwood, married to a policeman, went all the way in resisting the tax credit fraud charges against her. She declined to answer questions after her arrest and then pleaded not guilty at her trial. She was detected in March 2011 but her case only came to court in September 2013, when she was jailed for a year.

At the time this seemed like a long delay. But only now has she been banned from nursing!

A benefit cheat nurse who splashed out on luxury living while pretending to be a struggling single mother has lost her career after being banned from the profession.

Cheryl Fiona Henwood, of Heswall, Wirral, was jailed for a year after she scammed more than £90,000 in taxpayers’ money.

Despite being described as a “competent and caring clinician”, she has now been struck off by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC).

A disciplinary panel in London heard the district nurse claimed she was bringing up her children on her own, while in fact she was married and living with her policeman husband. The fraud spanned seven years, during which she also claimed tax credits at a higher rate than she was entitled to for one of her children.

An investigation by HMRC revealed Henwood had spent money on expensive holidays to Florida and Dubai, owned a jetski and bought a pony for one of her children.

She was locked up after being found guilty of 12 counts of being knowingly concerned in fraudulent activity at Liverpool Crown Court in 2013.

Henwood repaid the money, plus extra for inflation, before being sentenced. But the NMC panel said it considered that, by committing the offences, she had shown a “disregard for the laws of the country” and brought the nursing profession into disrepute.

Lawyers acting for Henwood asked the panel to impose a five-year order of conditions on her nursing practice, which would allow her to continue with her job at a nursing home. They said she had worked at the home for two years without further incident, and the panel heard she had been trusted with money and valuables in her role.

But, removing her from the nursing register, the panel concluded she could not continue working as a nurse because of her “serious dishonesty”.

Announcing the decision, an NMC spokesman said: “Members of the public would not expect a nurse who enjoys a privileged standing in society to defraud the public purse in excess of £92,000. Such behaviour demonstrates a significant departure for many years from the standards expected of a registered nurse.”

He added: “The panel concluded that nothing short of a striking-off order would be sufficient. Such a sanction is necessary to mark the serious nature of the dishonesty and to send a clear message to the public and the profession about the standards of conduct and behaviour expected of a registered nurse. By defrauding the public purse for a period of seven years, the reputation of the profession has been adversely affected. Members of the public would be appalled to find that a registered nurse, a professional in a position of trust in society, would behave in such a way.”


23 Apr 2017

Leeds couple admit £24k benefit fraud

A former soldier from Leeds helped his partner carry out part of a benefit fraud as she falsely claimed just over £24,000 in housing benefits and tax credits.

Leeds Crown Court heard Sara Elliot, 34, failed to notify authorities of her change in circumstance when she and her three children moved from a three bedroom council house in Harehills to her partner David Pollard’s two-bedroom flat in Beeston in 2013.

Pollard, 35, had claimed to be Elliot’s landlord when the pair were living as a couple and a false tenancy agreement was submitted to claim housing benefit between September 2014 and March 2016.

A total of £19,494 was overpaid in tax credits and £4,626 housing benefit was overpaid. The couple have a child together but have since split up.

Elliot admitted three charges of benefit fraud and Pollard admitted one charge of assisting Elliot to commit benefit fraud.

The court heard Pollard had served in the army for nine years and did tours in Bosnia and Northern Ireland. He now works as a train conductor for Northern Rail.

Anna Moran, mitigating for Pollard, said: “He went to Asda and collected a pre-packed tenancy agreement and asked her to submit it for a housing benefit claim. He is extremely sorry for his involvement. The money was not used for any sort of frivolous lifestyle. The money was used to support the family.”

Nicoleta Alistari, mitigating for Elliot, said she is “ashamed and remorseful.”

Judge Mushtaq Khokhar sentenced both defendants to four month jail sentences, suspended for 18 months. Pollard was also ordered to do 200 hours unpaid community work.