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Showing posts with label tip off. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tip off. Show all posts

27 Feb 2018

Housing officer jailed for illegal sub-letting

A housing officer who illegally sublet a council home has been jailed.

Julia Miah, 45, from Luton, was jailed for a year and ordered to pay £20,000 in compensation and £3,174 in costs after admitting she had never lived in a two-bed council property in East Finchley, which she was illegally subletting to a family member.

Miah was first given the keys to the council property in Prospect Ring in 2007, and immediately sublet it to a family member while she moved into a house in Luton which she jointly inherited.

She carried on the deception for 10 years, always declaring that she still lived in the property in East Finchley, but in April 2017 Barnet's Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT) launched an investigation after receiving a tip.

When Miah was interviewed under caution by Barnet Council counter-fraud offences, she admitted she had never lived in the flat and immediately agreed to hand back the keys.

Leader of Barnet Council, Cllr Richard Cornelius, said: "At a time of significant housing pressures, it is totally unacceptable for someone to abuse the system in this way for so long, without ever having any intention of living in the property. Council homes are there for people in genuine need of housing, not for personal gain. I hope the custodial sentence and order for compensation handed down by the court in this case, sends out a very clear message about the consequences for anyone who might be contemplating something similar."

Miah admitted to three counts of fraud by failing to disclose information.

Source

17 Nov 2017

17 month investigation for social housing fraud

Reading Borough Council shows how to make a mountain out of a molehill. This just is not competent, cost-effective enforcement.

They didn't even discover the offence for themselves, it came as a result of a tip off.


A tenant who illegally sub-let his council flat has been convicted of fraud and ordered to pay hundreds of pounds. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

Victor Carrington, formerly of Granville Road, admitted to two counts of fraud at Reading Magistrates' Court on November 10 after being under the microscope since November 2015.

He was fined a total of £743, with an additional £600 in costs awarded to Reading Borough Council.

The council's fraud investigation team had a tip-off from concerned residents.

Carrington had been a council tenant since 2005, but after leaving the address, he sub-let the property to his friend without informing the council that he was no longer living there.

Reading Borough Council leader Jo Lovelock said:
There has never been more demand for social housing and the council has duty to ensure social homes are available to those that need them. This prosecution shows the council will not tolerate tenancy fraud. The council will investigate all cases robustly and where offences are uncovered take the necessary legal action to recover the property.
During a 17-month investigation, housing officers used banking and CCTV evidence.

When they arranged to visit the property, Carrington ensured he was available to see them and completed false statements confirming he still lived at the address.

He also failed to disclose that someone else was living at the flat.

The property has now been let to another council tenant after being returned to the council in June.

Carrington admitted one count of fraud and another of prevention of social housing fraud.

Source

10 Nov 2017

Jail after illegal sub-letting

Mustafa Mustafa, 33, has been jailed following a successful prosecution by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

In March 2014 Mustafa obtained a one-bedroom council property at Middle Park Avenue, but the council received information alleging he no longer lived at the property and was subletting to others.

Financial enquiries identified Mustafa had received regular payments into his bank account and from April 2014 to October 2016 he had payments in excess of £10,000 with over £2,000 of this described as ‘rent’ on bank statements.

Enquiries also identified Mustafa had spent at least 17 months out of the UK since April 2014.

In November 2016 Royal Borough investigators visited the property and spoke with a male who confirmed his wife and child had been residing there since August 2014 and that he paid his wife’s monthly rent of £700 to her landlord, Mr Mustafa. He confirmed that he had also paid Mr Mustafa an initial payment of £2,150 to cover the deposit, one month’s rent and to cover the costs of the credit checks and references on his wife Mustafa stated he needed to undertake.

In January 2017 council investigators interviewed Mustafa under caution. He admitted shortly after obtaining the council property he had gone to live in Northern Cyprus and been abroad at least a-year-and-a-half. Mustafa was shown evidence of his subletting but denied he made any money from it and he had allowed a friend of a friend to stay.

But when shown documents bearing his signature relating to the £2,150 payment from his tenant he agreed that this was his writing. Mr Mustafa confirmed that he had never lived at the Middle Park Avenue property and allowed others to live there while he was out of the UK.

Enquiries also found Mustafa claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support from March 2014 to February 2016 and he had not declared he was not living at the property and had sublet it to others.

He received benefits totalling almost £9,000 that he was not entitled to receive.

After the interview Mr Mustafa returned the keys to the property which was re-allocated to a person in genuine need. On October 24 Mustafa pleaded guilty to four charges at Woolwich Crown Court and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment.

The court also heard offences committed by Mr Mustafa fell within a period of a suspended prison sentence for other offences and he was jailed for a further 17 weeks.

Councillor Maureen O’Mara is cabinet member for customer services and anti-fraud. She said: “Mr Mustafa’s actions were shameful and I am pleased they led to prison. Let this be a warning to others who think subletting much-needed council property is acceptable.”

Source

31 Mar 2015

Costs order for social housing fraud

A family have been evicted from the three-bedroom house they were living in and ordered to pay £30,000 after it was discovered the social housing tenant who was supposed to be living there was actually living somewhere else.

Following an anonymous tip-off, Circle Housing worked alongside Hackney Council’s fraud investigations team and found the home in Forston Street, Shoreditch, was occupied by Margaret Nelson’s daughter Amanda Murray, 51, and her family, while 73-year-old Mrs Nelson – the tenant – lived in Sunnyhill Close with her husband.

Mrs Nelson, her daughter, and her husband Liam Murray, 52, and son Lee Murray, 29, were ordered to pay costs of £30,000 at the Royal Courts of Justice on March 11.

Under the recently introduced Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013, tenancy fraud is now a criminal offence that can lead to a two-year prison sentence and unlimited fine.

Mrs Nelson was accused of a “breathtaking” scope of lies, including that she was unable to read, whilst her daughter was accused of “lying like a trooper”.

Although Circle Housing Circle 33 conceded that Mrs Nelson was a regular visitor to Forston Street, it says she had not lived there for at least a decade.

Defence counsel argued that the fact Mrs Nelson stayed overnight in Sunnyhill Close did not necessarily mean that Forston Street was not her main home, and criticised a “flawed investigation”.

Avril Drummond, customer service manager for Circle Housing Circle 33, said housing fraud is taken “very seriously”.

She added: “Every home not occupied by the registered tenant costs taxpayers around £18,000 a year and prevents families on the waiting list and in need of a home from moving into a property. This case demonstrates the important role played by the local community as well as the local authorities in tackling tenancy fraud.”

The social housing property is now back in Circle Housing’s possession and will be made available to someone in genuine need of social housing.

In three years Circle Housing Circle 33 has recovered more than 200 homes.

Source

Social housing fraud is the most wicked form of welfare fraud. The sums that can be saved are huge, but it's so much more than the money - needy families are being deprived of the chance to have a settled home that suits their needs.

28 Aug 2014

Tip-off identifies illegal sub-letting

A Cheltenham woman who worked abroad and unlawfully sublet her flat has lost her tenancy.

Guinness Hermitage took possession of its property in Lansdown Crescent, Montpellier, after hearing the women who rented the property was not in the country.

The affordable housing provider was given an anonymous tip-off on the Gloucestershire Tenancy Fraud Forum website.

Staff then found that the property was advertised on a Cheltenham lettings website. Interviews with local residents confirmed that the tenant had moved abroad and that the two-bed flat was being sublet.

After several attempts to contact the tenant, staff were able to confirm that she was currently living abroad.

As she was in breach of her tenancy, and to avoid legal action, she made the decision to hand in her keys.

More

16 Jul 2014

What it takes to prosecute one £3,930 benefit fraud

This is how long it takes to prosecute one small benefit fraud. (h/t Dave) It's not even as if the council detected it - she came to the council's attention thanks to a tip-off.

Elisha Lopez filled in forms to say she was a single parent living alone at a property in Bury. The 36 year old mother of four also claimed her boyfriend moved out of the property when she moved in, entitling her to claim housing benefit on the basis that she was not earning enough in her role as a part-time nurse.

But in January 2013, a whistleblower alerted town-hall chiefs to the fact the Lopez had a second job running a cake-making business. They also alleged that Lopez’s boyfriend was living at her home.

The council investigated. They had to prove she was not single, so they recorded Lopez’s boyfriend leaving the property each morning and arriving in the evening.

"Claims were made", we are told, that the man lived with his mother near Lopez. So the council had to dig deeper. They found that two vehicles he owned were registered to Lopez’s home. They then looked at her Facebook account and saw she was listed as ‘in a relationship’ with the man and was also using the account to take cake-making orders for her business.

Police arrested Lopez in 2014 and, when appearing before Bury magistrates on July 9, she admitted committing benefit fraud over a 26-month period up to August 2013.

So the tip-off comes in January 2013, but the council aren't sure enough of their ground to stop her benefits until eight months later.

It then takes a further four months before she is arrested, and eleven months after her benefits were stopped the case comes to court.

After all this, she is sentenced to a 12-month Community Order with 130 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £928. She will also have to pay back the £3,930 in benefits that she wrongly claimed.

After the hearing, the council’s regulations representative Cllr Sandra Walmsley said:
Benefit fraud is not only wrong, but it’s unfair on the taxpayer and on genuine claimants. We will continue to take action against those who abuse the system.
But there aren't enough benefit fraud staff even to check all the claims - let alone prosecute more than a tiny fraction of the benefit fraud out there.

3 Apr 2014

Swedish agency gets more benefit fraud tip-offs

Sweden's social insurance agency recovered 170 million kronor last year (notes Dave) after it tightened its reins on catching benefit fraudsters, thanks largely to a healthy dose of snitching from irate Swedes.

The insurance agency (Försäkringskassan) pulled in 170 million kronor ($26.4 million) in 2013, reported Sveriges Radio (SR), an increase of 70 million kronor compared to 2012.

So a 70% increase in one year.

The agency started its push against benefits cheats in 2011 after an increase in tip-offs from the public about people claiming the need for personal carers. It put 26 would-be care providers under the microscope and have had a strong response.

"The convictions we've landed have been in Örebro and Linköping and we had one spectacular case in Härnösand," Thomas Falck, department head at the agency, told SR.

The benefit cheating can be anything from companies that don't provide care services or people claiming they have a disability that prevents them from working.

1 Apr 2014

Light sentence for £57k benefit fraud

A Chesterfield benefits cheat has been given 161 years to repay £57,405 – after keeping quiet about the new man in her life.

Mother of four Sandra Kelwick was ordered to obey a three-month curfew as punishment for the offences which emerged when civil servants were tipped off.

A court heard she has been told to return the cash at £13.70 a fortnight. But her solicitor Joe Harvey said: “She may be able to find employment to start to pay it back at a much more attractive rate.”

Kelwick, aged 50, admitted four counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances and two of making false statements to get benefit.

She was also put on probation and given a six-month prison sentence, suspended for a year at Derby Crown Court.

Edna Leonard, prosecuting, said Kelwick began claiming benefit in July 2000 when her partner left the home. But in December 2012, civil servants were told another man had moved in during November 2007. Checks showed he gave her address to his bank in 2007 and his employers were told of his location in 2011. His car’s insurance carried the address.

“Surveillance was undertaken and they saw him coming and going from the address. She said she had been his girlfriend for seven years but they didn’t live together,” said Miss Leonard.

Later Kelwick admitted he had moved in. When the offences ended, she had been wrongly paid £38,619 income support, £14,058 housing benefit and council tax benefit of £4,728.

Miss Leonard said Kelwick had never been in trouble before.

Judge Jonathan Gosling told her: “You stole over a long period of time almost £10,000 a year. You have lost your good name.”

The judge said he noted Kelwick had been ill, pleaded guilty promptly and the benefit claims were initially legitimate.

He added: “I hope your health improves so you can go back to work.” He ordered her to have five days of ‘employment training’ to help her get a job.

She had discussed her benefits with her new partner and he persuaded her to keep on claiming.

The judge estimated she could have legitimately received £8,000 benefits and added: “It is likely to be significantly more.”

28 Mar 2014

No jail for long term £30k benefit thief

A benefit cheat from Partington was handed a suspended sentence after dishonestly obtaining more than £30,000. (h/t Dave)

Tracy Murray, 46, of Hampshire Road, was sentenced to 52 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years, at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, on March 25. She was also ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid work and will have to repay all the money she obtained through the fraud.

Miss Murray failed to declare that her partner was living with her and, as a result, was overpaid income support, housing and council tax benefit amounting to £30,632, between September 2007 and May 2013.

Trafford Council was alerted to the matter following an anonymous phone call.

20 Mar 2014

Disabled woman was benefits thief

Honest taxpayers helped pay for a benefit cheat’s holiday home in Spain. (h/t Dave)

An anonymous tip-off put the authorities on the trail of Caryl Williams, who claimed more than £66,000 while failing to declare her true situation.

Not only did she jointly own the house abroad but she shared it with a partner Bryan Pinwell, who she also failed to declare, Cardiff Crown Court was told.

Now she is banned from travelling to their Spanish house or anywhere else for the next four months after being ordered to be on an electronically tagged night time curfew until the middle of July.

“You will have to wear a tag and be home in Morfa Street, Bridgend between 8pm and 6am every day,” Judge Tom Crowther QC told her.

He said it would be interesting to work out ‘how many thousands of years’ it would take her to pay back the money at the £7.20p a week she is currently having deducted from her ongoing disability allowance, after she falsely claimed £58,406.04p in income support, £335.14p in employment support and £7,304.28p in council tax. Calculations suggest it would take more than 176 years.

The 57-year-old pleaded guilty to seven offences against the Department of Work and Pensions and Bridgend County Council.

But she only admitted making the fraudulent claims after asking a judge whether she was likely to be jailed - and being given an indication her prison sentence could be suspended.

Previously Williams had denied doing anything wrong and was minutes away from standing trial before a jury when she changed her mind.

Judge Crowther gave her a 10-month suspended for two years, because of her previous good character and her poor health. But he told her:
You have been thoroughly dishonest in obtaining money to which you were not entitled. This was theft of public funds raised by taxes on working people. There is not an endless pot of money and it diverts funds from those genuinely in need. Your property in Spain has been heavily subsidised by those working in the United Kingdom. You see only an entitlement for yourself not the fact that you have taken from the needy. You lived a lifestyle which many would regard as enviable and beyond their means.
Prosecutor Kayleigh Simmons said Williams’ claims, which began in 1998, had originally been genuine.

But in 2012 there was anonymous call to the benefit fraud line saying she had been living as husband and wife with Mr Pinwell for years and that they had a Spanish property.

Checks revealed his bank accounts, finance arrangements for two motor cycles and a large motor-home all had him living at her Morfa Street address, which was also the one he had given his employers Vector International.

“They own 50 per cent each of the house in Calle Fuente Del Moral in Rute which they purchased in 2005,” Ms Simmons said. “She later admitted she visited the property for two weeks ‘once or twice a year’, that her children also went there and that Mr Pinwell had agreed to leave his share to her family if he died.”

Judge Crowther told Williams:
You were sitting talking about how to divide up, after death, property acquired by using a contribution of public funds. You were dividing that up as a gift to your children.
Defence counsel Jeffrey Jones said Williams’ daughter lived a few doors from her in Bridgend and cared for her.

“She suffers multiple sclerosis, depression and diabetes and has a trapped nerve in her spine which causes extreme pain and requires daily morphine. Sometimes she can barely dress and stays in her nightclothes.”

Williams was ordered to pay the £5,740 cost of her prosecution within nine months.

That payment was ordered by the judge after he questioned what equity was in the Bridgend house she bought 30 years ago and was told it could be around £100,000.

Charging order needed, at the very least! We should get all our money back.

7 Mar 2014

Benefit fraud tip off starts long legal process

Tracy Walker, 43, from Littleborough, who spent eight years falsely claiming over £60,000 in benefits, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Manchester Crown Court heard how Walker lied about being single to secure Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit between June 2004 and October 2012.

A joint investigation by Rochdale Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions uncovered the deception following an anonymous tip that Walker had been living with her estranged husband, Nigel Walker.

Walker denied to investigators that she had rekindled a relationship with her husband, who was working and therefore meant she was not eligible for any benefits. However, she was adjudged to have claimed dishonestly and her benefits were withdrawn.

After losing two appeals, Walker pleaded not guilty to three charges of obtaining benefits by false representation at an initial hearing at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court in June 2013.

Walker then changed her plea to guilty at the start of the trial at Manchester Crown Court, and on 27 February 2014 she was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to repay £61,500.

Councillor Jonathan Burns, Interim Portfolio Holder for Finance at Rochdale Borough Council, said:
The prison sentence reflects the seriousness of both the initial fraud and the subsequent attempt to escape justice. I hope this sends the message that benefit fraud will not be tolerated; we take it very seriously indeed and the consequences can be severe.

14 Feb 2014

Tip-offs identify benefit frauds in North Lincolnshire

Calls to a whistleblower hotline and ongoing operations are helping detect hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of fraud in North Lincolnshire.

The hotline, set up by North Lincolnshire Council in 1998, is receiving a steady increase in the number of calls from members of the public. These tip-offs, along with joint operations with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), have helped prosecute 24 fraudsters since April.

The authority's investigation manager said the hotline was one of the tools the council was utilising in its battle against fraud:
We do get some very good results from the whistleblower hotline. There is often very little information they can give and it takes a lot of work to firm it up. People can report suspicions and we give them the opportunity to do that.
Since April, the hotline has received 446 calls, although 208 turned out to be spurious – calling the number by mistake for another council matter.

If that rate continues until March 31, it will lead to an increase on the 297 referrals in 2012-13, 295 in 2011-12, 187 in 2010-11 and 189 in 2009-10.

Of the fraud detected by the council, 90 per cent is housing benefit.

The number of fraud cases fell significantly in 2012/13 – from 949 to 295 – following the completion of a two-year joint exercise with the DWP.

Of the 295 cases, 268 cases (90 per cent) were for council tax and housing benefits, compared to 921 (97 per cent) of the 949 cases the previous year.

The investigation manager said the ongoing two-year operation with the DWP has already led to £300,000 worth of fraud being uncovered in North Lincolnshire:
Ultimately, it is a high-profile topic on the basis of the amount of media coverage. Between ourselves and the DWP, we identified well over £300,000 worth of fraud in that exercise. That started two years ago. Quite a number of cases out of that exercise had huge over-payments of tens of thousands. That was the first time we have done that locally.
The investigation manager said an exercise which started early last year has identified £70,000 worth of fraud.
We do a lot of data matching. We try and identify if somebody is claiming elsewhere or is working and not declaring their employment or has undeclared income and savings. An exercise that started in March last year, which we are currently working on, has found £70,000 of fraud. This exercise is part of the Audit Commission's National Fraud Initiative. This is a lengthy exercise and will be ongoing for many months. The reason we are doing all this data matching is to try and identify fraud and error much earlier to recover losses to the council.
Since April, 24 people have been prosecuted for fraud – up from the 19 who were prosecuted during the whole of 2012-13.

Councillor Neil Poole, cabinet member for policy and resources, said the local authority was making great efforts to stamp it out:
We work extremely hard trying to tackle benefit fraud, ensuring that those who are claiming falsely are found out and prosecuted. Many of the cases we have identified over the years may not have been found if it wasn't for our great joint working with the Department for Work and Pensions and other local councils. By working with these agencies, it means we can share data and carry out comparisons to see if any differences occur. It is only by working so closely together that we are able to get these good results and ensure that all the benefits being wrongly claimed are corrected, the appropriate action is taken and taxpayers' money is safeguarded.

3 Feb 2014

Bedfordshire benefit thieves

A business owner and parents of young children have been given tough sentences after their involvement in benefits frauds. (h/t VNCounterFraud)

Four Bedford people have been sentenced after stealing a combined £112,387 in Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit and Income Support, in separate cases.

Carleen Cox, 32, and Phillip Hicks, 39, appeared at Luton Crown Court on Wednesday, January 29.

The court heard the couple stole over £52,000 in Housing and Council Tax Benefit and Income Support over five years by failing to declare there were living together and that Hicks was working full time.

Carleen Cox pleaded guilty to a total of 17 charges of dishonestly making false representations. Philip Hicks pleaded guilty to 17 charges for dishonestly causing or allowing and making false statements in order for Carleen Cox to obtain Housing, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support, by failing to declare that they were living together.

As a result, from June 2007 to September 2012, they stole £15,276.39 in Income Support, £32,528.10 in Housing Benefit and £4,350.35 in Council Tax Benefit.

The fraud was uncovered when a workmate of Hicks reported the offence. The Court heard that Hicks regularly bragged about having a ‘rich week’ when Cox received a benefit payment and had boasted they had ‘got away with it’ when Cox was cautioned for an earlier offence. The court heard that Hicks confessed to the offence after being arrested on suspicion of fraud.

Both were sentenced to 10 months in prison. The couple had asked to be spared prison sentences because they had young children. However, in sentencing the judge said:
You both have behaved in a thoroughly dishonest way. I have carefully considered the human rights for your children, you are both sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for each charge to run concurrent, and you should reflect on what sort of an example you have set your children.
Abdul Ahad, 42, appeared at Luton Magistrates Court on Monday, January 27. Mr Ahad pleaded guilty to 4 counts of dishonestly making false representations in order to obtain Housing and Council Tax Benefit. The Court heard that Mr Ahad claimed he received the minimum wage as an employee of the Hoi Tin Take Away in Kempston. However, he actually owned the property and ran the business. The court heard that between March 2009 and April 2013, Mr Ahad stole £18,603.44 in Housing Benefit and £5,270.48 in Council Tax benefit. Mr Ahad was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to repay all of the money stolen as well as £200 costs and a £80 Victim Surcharge. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Momina Banu, 39, appeared at Luton Crown Court on Friday, January 24 and pleaded guilty to 6 counts of dishonestly making false representations to the Department for Work and Pensions and Bedford Borough Council. The court heard Mrs Banu had illegally claimed Housing, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support, by failing to declare that she held £26,000 in undeclared bank accounts. The fraud was revealed when data from HMRC showed she was receiving interest on the savings. The court heard that between June 2007 and April 2012 Momina Banu stole £19,348.72 in Housing Benefit, £5,096.37 in Council Tax benefit and £11,913.43 in Income Support. Mrs Banu was handed a 21 month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, along with a curfew order for 4 months preventing her from leaving her home between 8pm and 7am. The terms of the curfew mean that she will have to wear an electronic tag. She was ordered to repay all of the money stolen as well as £100 in costs.