26 Oct 2016

DWP worker jailed for disability benefit fraud

West Ham fan Jaine Miller loved hearing the club’s anthem, We’re Forever Blowing Bubbles, at home games.

However, on Thursday the bubble burst for the senior Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) worker after she was branded a benefits fraudster.

The mum-of-three from Broadstairs ripped off £18,000 from the public to help pay for what a judge described as a “lavish” lifestyle.

Apart from attending West Ham games and meals at swanky restaurants, the 41-year-old also enjoyed luxury trips to New York, Washington, Las Vegas, Miami, Majorca, Mexico Portugal and Rome.

A judge at Canterbury Crown Court heard she now has £100,000 debts despite working for the DWP for more than 30 years.

Her lawyer Kerry Waitt told the hearing that she had splashed out the cash because: “She would rather have memories than regrets”.

Miller, who worked at the Margate Job Centre, wept in the dock as a jury took just 20 minutes to convict her of benefit fraud by illegally claiming disability living allowance since 2011.

The jury was shown two videos taken by undercover investigators of her “marching” to West Ham’s London Stadium overtaking other fans after parking her car bearing a I Love West Ham sticker in a car park for disabled supporters 10 minutes away.

Mary Jacobson, prosecuting, said it had been accepted that Miller did have mobility problems in 2011 and had been entitled to the allowances but she failed to tell the DWP when her condition improved. Instead, she began living a “normal life” going to football matches, restaurants, shopping and holidays in the US and Europe.

Mr Waitt said she and her painter and decorator husband had worked and the benefits had not been used exclusively for her luxury holidays. He said she had a number of conditions of the spine and had cancer and didn’t know how long she would be able to be mobile.

Judge James O’Mahony said he had heard “an extraordinary catalogue of medical illness” mentioned during the week-long trial but had seen no doctor’s reports supporting her claims.

In jailing her for a year for the fraud, which she had denied, the judge told her:
There is a rich, proud tradition in this country that those who need a helping hand because of disability or disadvantage are helped by those who are more fortunate but if people cheat the system it reflects adversely on those who are genuine. From 2011 the picture presented during your trial was you were living a normal happy life, walking with ease, marching to football without any difficulties.
The judge said Miller was a highly intelligent woman who had “an answer for everything” during the trial adding, “but they were dishonest answers.” He said it wasn’t a coincidence that she had used her inside knowledge at the DWP to “press the right buttons” to get the hand-outs.

After the hearing the judge commended the DWP investigator Gary Topp for the “considerate” way he had carried out the interview with Miller.

A DWP spokesman said: “The staff member in question has been dismissed. As this case shows, we take all benefit fraud extremely seriously and will always investigate and, where appropriate, prosecute fraudsters, no matter who they are.”

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20 Oct 2016

Fraudster loses fight to keep his flat

Sean Martin Doherty has been refused permission to appeal against a High Court order for his property in Princess Road to be handed over to the National Crime Agency (NCA).

The court had heard the 59-year-old was serving a prison sentence for benefit fraud when he bought the flat for £55,000 in 1998 with a fraudulently obtained mortgage.

He had paid the five per cent deposit using his ill-gotten gains and used a false identity, supported by a fictitious reference and fake declarations of income.

There is an outstanding sum of £30,000 left to pay on the mortgage of the property, which has rocketed in value by 700 per cent since he bought it.

Doherty had questioned the legality of NCA’s application using the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Stephanie Jeavons, deputy director for the NCA’s economic crime command, said:
Civil Recovery is a really effective way of denying criminals the benefit of their crimes, and that includes investments. The Proceeds of Crime Act allows the NCA to recover not just the original purchase price of the property but also the increase in the value of the property over the intervening years.

19 Oct 2016

Liverpool couple jailed for £100k benefits fraud

A couple were jailed after ‘taking away’ more than £100,000 in benefits ‘from people who really need help’.

Alexander Pearson, 61, and his partner Veronica Stuart, 64, from Kirkby, scammed tax payers and cheated the system for almost 12 years before being found out by Knowsley Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The pair pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to the offences that ended in July 2014.

In total, the couple claimed almost £45,000 in housing benefit, more than £52,000 in income support, more than £10,000 in council tax benefits and a further £1,300 in council tax reductions. All the money claimed was over and above their entitlement and they were both sentenced to a year in prison.

Confiscation proceedings will also now begin to recover some of the overpayments.

A Knowsley Council spokesman said: “This is an excellent outcome. By claiming benefits they are not entitled to, fraudsters take money away from people who really need help. Our message is clear – we will prosecute and take action against those who are fraudulently claiming benefits.”

Knowsley Council said people can report those suspected of benefit fraud by calling 0800 0730 532. There is no need to give a name and calls are treated in confidence.


18 Oct 2016

Benefit fraud nurse eventually suspended

A BLAENAU Gwent nurse has been suspended by regulatory body The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) after illegally claiming thousands of pounds in benefits.

Alison Dawn Scott, of Blaenau Gwent, worked as a nurse at the Royal Glamorgan Hospital, near Llantrisant and previously pleaded guilty to benefit fraud at Caerphilly Magistrates Court in 2014.

And it reaches the NMC in 2016.

Between April 23, 2012 and September 15, 2013, Scott failed to inform the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of her change in employment, claiming an extra £4,296.75 in carer’s allowance.

Although she is currently paying back the sum at a rate £30 a month - soon to be raised to £50 - Scott has continued to work as a nurse.

At a tribunal on Friday, the NMC agreed to temporarily suspend the nurse, due to the “dishonest” nature of the offence.

Case presenter, Douglas Lloyd stated the offence “couldn’t be committed by an act of oversight or act of negligence”.

“A dishonesty offence such as a fraudulent claim for money is of deep concern," he said. "Even if you are satisfied that there is no risk of repetition you must consider the public interest."

Scott previously worked as a carer between 1999- 2009 and qualified as a nurse in 2012 after spending three years at the University of Glamorgan.

The tribunal heard Scott accepted she was in receipt of benefit, knew she wasn’t entitled when she was in employment, knowingly continued to receive benefit and didn’t inform the DWP.

Daniel Neill, defending, noted that Scott had no previous convictions or NMC referrals and was “full and frank” about the offence, self-referring to the regulatory body and informing her employer.

He also noted Scott’s positive references, stating the public would be “deprived of someone who is a valued member of the community” if she was to be struck off.

“This is a case of failure to notify," he said. "It is a case of dishonesty yes but a case of dishonesty by omission rather than commission."

Acting NMC chairwoman, Monica French, stated that Scott had learned from her wrongdoing but the nature of the offence and her dishonest behaviour was “unacceptable”.

The NMC ruled that Scott was currently “impaired” in her practice and imposed a two month suspension order. This order will take action 28 days from the day of the meeting and Scott must serve this before returning to employment.


14 Oct 2016

Leeds pensioners jailed for benefit fraud

Two benefit cheats from Leeds have been jailed in separate cases after failing to declare they were receiving private pensions. (h/t Dave)

Leeds Crown Court heard when Donald Denton claimed housing and council tax benefit in 2009 the former miner failed to mention he was in receipt of a pension from Prudential.

Later that same year he began working for a health care firm and also did not notify that change in his circumstances, Michael Jowett, prosecuting, told the court. As a result of his omissions he was overpaid £29,072 in benefits to which he was not entitled.

Mehran Nassiri, representing Denton, said he realised he was wrong not to mention his employment and pension but put it to the back of his mind. He had already repaid £10,450 after receiving an inheritance.

Denton, 63, was jailed for 30 weeks after admitting three charges of benefit fraud.

Mr Jowett told the court in a separate case Rosemary Robinson was overpaid £27,209 in benefits after she failed to disclose she was receiving a pension from Friend’s Life.

She told investigators she was angry other people “were getting everything” while she was having to live within her means. Ian Cook representing her said she “became trapped in her own lies”.

Robinson, 61, was jailed for 34 weeks after she admitted three charges of failing to disclose information.


12 Oct 2016

Nominal punishments for extended benefit fraud

A Heysham resident and her accomplice in the Costa del Sol who falsely claimed he was living with her in the UK in order to fraudulently claim a UK benefit have both been found guilty of benefit fraud. (h/t Dave)

British pensioner Antony McNamara falsely made a claim in 2011 for Pension Credit, a benefit non-UK residents are not eligible to receive.

Despite living and working in Benalmádena on the Costa del Sol at the time, on his claim he stated that he lived in a house at The Cliffs, Heysham with his “sister” Margaret Walsh and asked that his benefit be paid into her bank account as he did not have one. Over the next four years his alleged sister would transfer his benefit money from her bank account to his, allowing McNamara to continue enjoying his Spanish lifestyle at the expense of the British taxpayer.

In 2015 investigations carried out jointly by DWP fraud teams in the UK and Spain revealed that not only had McNamara been living and working in Spain for the past four years and owned 50% of a property there but also that his alleged “sister” was actually a woman with whom he had been in a relationship with many years previously and had a child with.

In June of this year the 70 year old pleaded guilty at Lancaster Magistrates Court to benefit fraud totalling £15,147.90 and was handed 12 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered to repay the money in full.

His fictional sister Margaret Walsh, 68, now of Maghull, Merseyside, admitted one offence of lying to the investigator when he called to speak to McNamara by saying that he had “just stepped out for a minute” but denied assisting him at the outset by letting the DWP think he was living with her. However, after a trial at Liverpool Magistrates Court, she was found guilty on all charges of assisting McNamara in obtaining benefit by deception and was sentenced to 10 weeks electronic tagging and a curfew.

DWP Fraud Investigator David Topping said: “We were tipped off anonymously about this and a lot of our cases come to us in that way".

He continued, illogically, "This case shows that people abroad who set out to defraud the benefit system in the UK by claiming benefits they are clearly not entitled to, will be tracked down and dealt with in the courts”.

If you suspect someone of committing or assisting someone to commit benefit fraud, call the free and confidential fraud hotline on 0800 854 440.


11 Oct 2016

Man fined for illegal sub-letting

A former Milton Keynes council tenant has been ordered to pay back more than £1,000 after being caught fraudulently sub-letting his flat.

Thomas Mann, 46, formerly of Serpentine Court, Bletchley, appeared before city magistrates where he pleaded guilty under the Fraud Act 2006.

He was given a compensation order of £910 and ordered to repay costs of £500, a total of £1,410.

This matter was investigated after information was received by Milton Keynes Council that Mann was illegally sub-letting his council property.

A council investigator established that Mr Mann was no longer living at the property, but had taken deposits and rent payments via his bank account from a sub-tenant.

He failed to appear for questioning regarding the matter and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was picked up by police in Leicestershire.

A council Internal Audit spokesperson said: "We will robustly pursue those people who commit housing tenancy fraud in any guise. Perpetrators will, where appropriate as in this case, be prosecuted and reparation will be sought to recover monies owed to the taxpayers of Milton Keynes."

A housing spokesperson added: "Illegal subletting deprives legitimate and deserving people access to much needed affordable housing that is in short supply. We are very pleased with this result and we will continue to take robust action against these types of fraudsters."


10 Oct 2016

Suspended sentence for £38k benefits cheat

A Leicester benefits cheat who claimed £38,000 she was not entitled to has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Carla Hayes, 29, pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud relating to income support, housing and council tax payments, between February 2010 and February 2015.

Leicester Crown Court was told her initial claim for benefits as a single mum was legitimate. But when she set up home living with Lee Thomas, who was employed, she failed to notify the authorities of a change in her circumstances, said James Bide-Thomas, prosecuting.

Hayes was given a 26 week jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to carry out 140 hours of unpaid work.

Judge Head said he accepted it was not a dishonest claim from the outset. He added: "You gave way to temptation and behaved in a thoroughly dishonest way to obtain £38,000 worth of benefits, when you were in a relationship. People who do that cheat the public; that's everyone who pays into the public purse. Those who honestly claim and then cease to be eligible, they have to notify a change in their circumstances. A prison sentence must send out a message to people that those who cheat the public purse will get custody, but I'm prepared to suspend it in this case."

Justine Robinson, mitigating, said: "She has dependent relatives, she's of previous good character and given her age and her attitude towards this offending, it's a case where Your Honour can take a step back from immediate custody. She's willing to make herself available to do unpaid work."

The court heard that Hayes had already begun repaying the money in instalments.


7 Oct 2016

Woman jailed over £77k benefits fraud

A benefits cheat fleeced the public purse of £77,000 after claiming she was unfit to work despite holding down a full time job at a wholesalers.

Karen Tomlinson’s nine-year deception came to light when she made repeated appeals against a Department of Work and Pensions decision to stop her benefits after a medical assessment.

She was jailed for four months after a court heard she used two different national insurance numbers and two different addresses in order to commit the offences.

Leeds Crown Court heard Tomlinson worked a 40-hour week and earned a salary of £20,000 despite claiming she needed to use a handrail to get in and out of her flat.

Michael Jowett, prosecuting, said Tomlinson made fraudulent claims for incapacity benefit, unemployment support as well as housing and council tax benefit before the offending came to light. The prosecutor said a decision was made to stop Tomlinson’s benefits in 2012 after she underwent a medical assessment. She continued to receive benefit payments pending two appeal hearings.

The DWP then launched an investigation in May last year and it was revealed she had an £11.50 per hour job with Costco.

Mr Jowett said: “She used two national insurance numbers - one for her benefits and one for her employment and then used two addresses - her own and her parents’.”

Tomlinson was interviewed and initially denied having a job. She said she had no explanation for why wages had been paid into her bank account!

Tomlinson, from Outwood, Wakefield, pleaded guilty to four offences of benefit fraud and two of failing to notify a change in circumstances. Patrick Palmer, mitigating, said Tomlinson committed the offences after her marriage ended and she was left with debts of around £25,000. Mr Palmer said the offending was not committed to fund a lavish lifestyle. He added: “She has never held a passport and has never been abroad.”

The barrister said Tomlinson had been off work since 2015 with an injury to her hand and was suffering with mental health problems. Mr Palmer said Tomlinson was now repaying the amount she had illegally claimed.

Judge Robin Mairs said: “This happened at a time when the public purse was stretched to almost breaking point. Money like this is needed by those who have real abject need.”


6 Oct 2016

Calculating benefit fraudster gets away with it

A benefits cheat mum falsely claimed thousands of pounds to buy a second home to get her kids into the catchment area for a better school, a court heard.

Mum-of-four Rejiya Mukith avoided jail after cheating the system by using tax payers' money for the new property.

Mukith, from Ipswich, Suffolk, got a mortgage for the £58,080 property in 2003. She later used £35,000 in income support she dishonestly obtained by lying about her financial situation to pay for the home.

Ipswich Crown Court heard the 45-year-old had cheated the system so her kids could get into the town’s Northgate High School which is rated Good by Ofsted.

Judge Rupert Overbury handed the jobless mum a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years. He said: “You committed a fraud on the benefits system over several years netting some £35,000. You used the money to purchase a second property in order that your children might receive the best education you thought to be available to them.” He added that it was his concern over the care of her six-year-old son which stopped him sending her straight to prison.

Speaking in mitigation Juliet Donovan said Mukith, believed to have been born in Bangladesh, came from a strict Muslim background, had no education and had not been permitted to work since she was married at 17. Despite this she was expected to provide for her children while her husband, who runs their family-owned business, was away for long periods of time. Rubbish

Miss Donovan said her client bought the second house because she believed Northgate High School was the best school for them to go to and she wanted to be in the catchment area.

Prosecutor Simon Gladwell told the court Mukith went on to rent out the second property, now worth £150,000, for £450 a month but didn’t tell the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) about this when she began claiming income support on 2005. She did this while claiming to have no capital assets or income.

Mukith had previously admitted dishonesty failing to disclose to the DWP that she was the owner of a capital asset when she claimed income support. The offence occurred between January 15, 2007 and October 30, 2007. Mukith also pleaded guilty to a second similar charge between February 2, 2008, and March 11, 2014. She also admitted a third charge of a dishonest failure to disclose information to the DWP which led to payments of Employment Support Allowance to her husband. This offence took place between March 14, 2014, and July 17, 2015.

The court heard a pre-sentence report had revealed Mukith had also committed the offences of greed in a bid to maintain her position in her community where others owned several properties.

Speaking from the doorstep of Mukith’s smart £250,000 semi-detached home in Ipswich, Suffolk, a woman claiming to be her sister but later identified by neighbours as Mukith herself, said: “She [Mukith] is depressed, quite depressed. She went to see the councillor. Everybody should not do that you know, say get family support rather than get punishment.”

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