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16 Aug 2019

"Psychic medium" was benefits cheat

A Kilmarnock-based psychic who calls himself Scotland’s Straight Talking Medium pled guilty to fraud.

George Wyllie, who travels the world with his private readings and live demonstrations as a medium, admitted fraudulently claiming £8500 worth of disability benefit to which he was not entitled.

Wyllie admitted the offence at Kilmarnock Sheriff Court last week.

The court heard how the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) received an anonymous tip-off that the 37-year-old was working full-time as a spiritual medium, performing on stage for hours and mobile when attending appointments.

An investigation carried out by the DWP revealed Wyllie had been travelling for his work and had conducted vlogs on the streets of New York - all while claiming personal independence payments (PIP).

The fiscal depute told the court: “There was a video uploaded on the accused’s website entitled in May 2017. It shows the accused able to stand and move for prolonged periods.

“It shows him able to bend forward, reach below his knees and withhold that position and straighten up again without any problems.”

She added: “Surveillance shows the accused undertaking activities at his home address in contradiction to his claim for PIP. He was viewed carrying a TV, carrying out gardening activities, using a water hose, moving wheelie bins and able to walk more than 40 yards.

“Footage at Glasgow Airport shows the accused en route to New York travelling alone and at one point holding a bag in excess of 200 yards.

“His video blog shows the accused broadcasting live and conducting a blog while walking around the streets of New York.”

Wyllie’s Facebook page George Wyllie Medium & Psychic shows a number of videos and live vlogs updating fans on his upcoming events and activities.

His website, which describes him as “The Real Deal bringing proof of life after life”, documented his trip to New York in July 2018, including a hand-held video of him walking through downtown Manhattan on his way to the theatre.

He pled guilty to claiming £8500 of PIP to which he was not entitled between May 2017 and November 2018 at a former address in Kilwinning.

His agent told Sheriff Alastair Watson that Wyllie suffered a range of mental health conditions including a personality disorder. She said: “This was a man who thought he was not doing anything wrong.”

However, Sheriff Watson replied: “If you can walk about the streets of New York, taking international flights, you do not even remotely meet the requirements for PIP. He did not need much advice to find that out.”

The lawyer replied: “His personality disorder clearly had an impact on him.

“He has developed a split personality as a way of coping with life. He has shown remorse and recognises the damage his actions have caused to society by impact on the public purse. With the hopes he has for his business he hopes he can repay that sum.”

Sheriff Watson told Wyllie: “You are a fraud. You have obtained PIP when you clearly were not entitled to it and it must have been absolutely obvious to you that you were not entitled.

“I feel sorry for all the genuine claimants who are made to go through rigorous and sometimes embarrassing examinations. They all suffer because of people like you.

“It is dishonest people like you that cause the need for these rigorous examinations. You are so close to custody.”

Wyllie was sentenced to 12 months of supervision and placed under a curfew order, forcing him to wear an electronic tag and remain at home between 7pm and 7am each night for three months.

Source

15 Aug 2019

Grandad squirrels away money, claims benefits

A grandad has been spared prison after committing benefit fraud by failing to disclose he had money in the bank while pocketing handouts.

Kevin Raisbeck hoped to keep money from the sale of a house as a nest egg for his children and grandchildren and failed to tell the DWP or the council.

As a result he received more than £20,000 in benefits he was not entitled to, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

Now the 57-year-old, who was using a walking stick when he appeared in court, has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Prosecutor Andrew Walker told the court: "The indictment covers a period from November 2015, when he was getting various benefits he was not entitled to.

"He failed to disclose substantial capital assets, cash in various accounts, that would have reduced his entitlement to zero. There was an overpayment of housing benefit, income support and employment support allowance totalling £20,438."

Inquiries revealed Raisbeck had sold a property in November 2015 and was still in possession of some of the proceeds of the sale in various accounts.

Mr Walker said: "All of those should have been disclosed to the DWP or local authority but none were."

Raisbeck, from Dudley, North Tyneside, pleaded guilty to four benefit fraud charges on the basis that when he initially claimed, it was legitimate and he didn't have any assets.

He said the proceeds from the sale were used to pay off debts and he had put some money aside for his children and grandchildren for their futures.

Raisbeck, who has five previous convictions but nothing since 2007, was sentenced to six months suspended for 18 months.

Recorder Dapinder Singh QC said Raisbeck had "buried his head in the sand" and added: "This was not a criminally, carefully planned, sophisticated operation from the outset.

"I have to mark the seriousness of this offending so other people don't think this kind of conduct is acceptable."

Penny Hall, defending, said: "He is not in good health, he has had back problems for many years and has had operations and that has led to mental health issues."

Miss Hall said he is the full time carer for his two adult children, who both have medical problems and may have had to go into care if he was locked up.

She added: "He is remorseful and says around that time, life was difficult."

The court heard Raisbeck has been paying back his ill-gotten gains at £30 a month.

So that's all right then?

Source

14 Aug 2019

Suspended sentence for social housing fraud

A fraudster who pretended to be the nephew of a dead man in a bid to take over his council home has been given a two year suspended prison sentence. (h/t Cornerstone)

Shafiqur Rahman, from Stepney Green, applied to take over the tenancy in June 2016 claiming he had been living with the Tower Hamlets Homes tenant at the one bedroom flat in Headlam Street, Whitechapel.

Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, said:
Housing fraud is a selfish act and results in much needed homes being denied to those in genuine need. We will always seek to take strong action against those acting illegally."
Rahman submitted an extensive list of documents to prove he lived at the flat including utilities bills, a council tax bill, bank statements, a car insurance certificate, a HM Customs & Revenue letter, birth certificates, an accountant's letter, housing benefit applications and council tax rebate.

But the soundness of some documents raised suspicions and triggered an investigation by Tower Hamlets Council's specialist housing fraud team.

Officers gathered evidence from utility, insurance and accountancy firms along with the council's own records to confirm a number of documents were fake.

One of the deceased tenant's care workers stated he hadn't seen any family members at the home apart from a relative who visited twice a year.

The tenant also told him most of his family lived in Scotland.

A friend, who supported the man after his wife died, confirmed he lived alone and had been cared for by social services. He knew nothing of Rahman and confirmed his friend had never mentioned him.

The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud at Snaresbrook Crown Court on July 4.

He was sentenced at the same court on Thursday, August 1. He received 150 hours of unpaid work, a four month curfew and will have to pay the council's £6,000 legal costs.

Cllr Sirajul Islam, deputy mayor and cabinet member for housing, said: "Many congratulations to all those who worked on what I know was a lengthy and complex investigation.

"With more than 20,000 people on our housing list, any property which is recovered is crucial."

This is why social housing fraud is particularly wicked.

Source


7 Aug 2019

Light sentence for £20k benefit fraud

A benefit cheat pocketed thousands in handouts he was not entitled to by secretly working as a scrap man.

Arthur Ferguson claimed he was only earning a small amount, tidying gardens and cleaning bins while claiming benefits.

But he took the money under false pretences for four-and-a-half years, during which time more than £70,000 was paid into his bank by two recycling firms.

Now the 58-year-old, of Cragside, The Lonnen, South Shields, who admitted dishonestly receiving more than £20,000 between 2013 and 2017, has been ordered to do unpaid work as part of a community order.

Jessica Slaughter, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court: "It's a benefit fraud case where he didn't disclose he was working to the full extent he was and he had money in his bank account higher than he was entitled to to get benefits.

"He told South Tyneside Council he was working as a garden tidier and bin cleaner and he claimed council tax benefit and housing benefit on the basis of limited earnings. He also claimed employment support allowance for a short period of time.

"He was supposed to notify any change in circumstances about how much he was working and how much he was receiving.

"He was receiving substantial sums into his bank account, consistent with him working for recycling companies and not declaring his income.

"Further, in 2013, he applied for and received a waste carriers licence for receiving scrap items."

The court heard that between December 2012 and July 2017, two recycling firms paid more than £70,000 to Ferguson.

When interviewed about the offence, he said none of the money received was his and that he would pay money back to them in cash.

The total overpayment in benefits was £20,598 and the claim was fraudulent from the outset, the court heard.

Ferguson has been paying back his ill-gotten gains at £50 a month and has so far handed over £400.

He pleaded guilty to benefit fraud and Recorder Jonathan Aitken sentenced him to a 12 month community order with 200 hours unpaid work.

Jennifer Coxon, defending, said: "He has not lived a lavish lifestyle. He didn't appreciate the seriousness of it but he now fully appreciates it.

"He is desperate financially and could now be entitled to benefits but doesn't wish to claim because he has made such a mistake and has had money he is not entitled to. So he is struggling financially.

"He continues with his waste collection company but it's variable in terms of income.

"He has destroyed his reputation because people are aware of this over-claim. He wants to pay it back."

Of course

Source

6 Aug 2019

Wealden's fraud team reports savings of over £400k

Wealden District Council’s counter fraud team saved the authority more than £400,000 in the last financial year.

The team investigated 69 cases in 2018/19, which when combined resulted in the council either recovering or saving £412,332.

Introducing the report, David Palmer, the council’s head of business services, said the team had been formed in 2014 as a result of a rise in cases in recent years, which he attributed to the effects of austerity.

He said: “Austerity has really caused more risks to be taken by the public. We didn’t used to have a large amount of fraud against the council, certainly not detected fraud against the council.

“The only thing we really had to rely on in the past, was a thing called the National Fraud Initiative. That still exists but is a bit behind than what we do here and still doesn’t yield great results by comparison.

“The National Fraud Initiative would have found about £30,000 in the last year, but you will see from your report, that we detected and effectively stopped fraud of £412,000. The team was formed in 2014 and since then has stopped fraud of approaching £2m.”

Since 2014, Mr Palmer said, the counter fraud team has shifted its approach, concentrating on prevention.

This prevention work currently focuses on Right to Buy applications, which are checked to ensure claims are genuine and the applicant is in a position to proceed with the purchase.

According to the report, the checks are made to ensure the council is not being used for money laundering purposes or that the applicant is purchasing on behalf of a third party.

Two such applications were stopped during the year saving a total discount of £145,900, the report says.

The report also notes an increase in the number of social housing fraud referrals being investigated, rising by 15 per cent on the previous year to a total of 20 cases. When combined, these investigations saw the council save £233,260, the report said.

Of the 69 cases investigated by the team, 16 related to investigations connected to Wealden’s Council Tax Reduction Scheme (CTRS). During the year, investigations connected to council tax (including both CTRS and single person discount schemes) saw £77,261 of fraud proven.

Source

5 Aug 2019

Benefit cheat caught training dogs at Crufts must pay back almost £11k

A dopey disability benefits cheat who posted pictures on Facebook exhibiting dogs at Crufts has been ordered to pay back almost £11,000 of her ill-gotten gains. (h/t Dave)

Trainer Linda Avery, aged 57, claimed she could hardly walk but was filmed at a later show in Devon grooming and running her charges around rings.

The former mealtime assistant was handed a community order with unpaid work in March.

But she was summonsed back to court as the Department for Work and Pensions sought their money back under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Plymouth Crown Court heard that she had been overpaid £12,538 in Disability Living Allowance over two years.

Judge Paul Darlow ordered her to pay £10,970 over the next three months. Avery could be jailed for seven months if she fails to do so.

The court heard that she had assets assessed as about £78,000, including her share in a home.

Sally Daulton, for the department, said pictures posted on Facebook showing Avery exhibiting at Crufts showed just how long she had been cheating the system.

She said that the defendant had already paid back the balance of the money owed to the department.

Avery claimed she needed a walking aid or sticks to get around and even needed someone to cut up her food, the court heard in March.

But officers from the Department for Work and Pensions secretly filmed her parading, grooming and lifting dogs at a show in Paignton.

Avery, from Efford, admitted dishonestly failing to notify an improvement in her condition affecting her DLA claim between October 2014 and July 2016.

She was handed a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work and 20 days of probation supervision.

Source with pictures

2 Aug 2019

Recorded benefit fraud costs £1m a week just in northern Ireland

£1m a week. That is only in northern Ireland - and only what they know about.

Benefit fraud in Northern Ireland cost the public purse more than £56m in the last year, a report has revealed. The amount lost to fraudsters has risen by almost 30% in five years.

The northern Ireland benefits bill is now running at more than £6bn a year.

The highest levels of fraud were seen in claims for Employment and Support Allowance (£20.7m) and housing benefit (£17.5m).

It has led to calls for tougher action against those who defraud the system. The Belfast Telegraph has previously reported on the low number of cases that result in prosecution.

Total expenditure on benefits in the last year was £6.1bn - a rise of 7.7% from five years ago.

This includes £2.3bn on the state pension, £892m on Employment and Support Allowance, and £688m on Disability Living Allowance.

The report details how customer fraud has risen from £43.5m to £56.2m over the last five years - up by 29.1%. Recorded benefit fraud in 2018 included:

• £20,749,065 through Employment and Support Allowance;

• £17,486,007 through Housing Benefit (Tenants);

• £6,238,160 through Pension Credit;

• £3,065,161 through Jobseeker's Allowance;

• And £2,245,117 through Universal Credit.

A further £23.1m was lost in the last year as a result of official error and £13m through customer error, where no fraud is intended.

The department estimated there were also underpayments of £30.5m due to official error.

A spokesman said:
The Department has a sizeable and experienced benefit security team which makes use of specific powers to effectively detect and target loss through mistakes and/or intentional frauds. For example, during 2018/19, over 8,000 case reviews, interviews or full fraud investigations were undertaken leading to over 2,500 cases where benefit valued at over £17m was stopped or reduced, overpayment recovery was initiated and, where appropriate, sanctions including convictions through the courts were secured.
In June, this newspaper reported how less than a quarter of suspected benefit frauds result in prosecution.

In the five years to April, a total of 8,092 investigations were identified. Across the same period, 1,963 benefit fraud cases came before the courts - just 24%.

In the last 12 months, there were 1,157 investigations and 302 cases were brought to court.

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1 Aug 2019

Councils' fraud team stops nearly £4.5m frauds

Nearly £4.5million in tenancy and Right to Buy fraud has been stopped in Ipswich and East Suffolk in the last year, shock new figures reveal.

In Ipswich, 14 Right to Buy applications were halted, preventing £969,598 being lost, while £1.7m was saved in tenancy fraud after eight council properties were recovered and nine applications prevented from those unsuitably attempting to claim a home.

In East Suffolk, 20 fraudulent Right to Buy applications were stopped saving £1,256,025 while £465,000 in tenancy fraud was identified.

Siobhan Martin, who heads up the joint team across the two authorities, said: "Our work is all about supporting legitimate people who are really deserving - hardworking genuine people. It's about identifying, evidencing and prosecuting those people who are abusing the system.

"Paying council tax is challenging for some people so we need to show what worth we are giving back [by stopping fraudulent activity] and ensuring value for money."

Among some of the instances behind the fraudulent activity are council house tenants sub-letting their property or money for Right to Buy coming from suspicious sources flagging up potential money laundering concerns.

The team also cracks down in other fraud areas such as disabled facility grants, improper blue badge applications and single person council tax discounts.

The team is part of a national co-ordination network, having seen instances where tenants have been sub-letting their Ipswich council house while living in another part of the country.

Mrs Martin said: "Where we see direct results there is also important information sharing with other organisations in other areas. It might be any one piece of information that can be the key."

Often tenancy fraud can be an indicator of other offences such as abuses of other benefits or drug operations, according to Mrs Martin.

Source

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

29 Jul 2019

Council tenant fined £100k & evicted for renting out flat

A council tenant has been ordered to pay a record £100,000 for sub-letting his central London flat through Airbnb as councils in the capital struggle to cope with the booming market in short-term online lettings.

Toby Harman, 37, had been advertising his “cosy studio apartment in Victoria” since 2013 with amenities including a hot tub and had more than 300 reviews.

...

Last year Westminster successfully recovered 24 social housing properties from fraudsters meaning they can now be allocated to residents in need of a new home.

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P.S. Westminster Council said it was currently investigating at least 1,500 properties in the borough for short-term letting.