25 Jul 2014

Benefit fraud checks fall in Rotherham

Rotherham Council's publicity of benefit fraud in its area manages to say nothing about total levels of fraud. It concentrates on seccessful prosecutions for housing and council tax fraud, which rose by a third this year, from 29 to 37.

However, this has to be viewed against total number of investigations into suspicious cases, which actually fell, from 1,342 to 1,060. Fines and formal cautions were also down.

Fifteen benefit fraud cases exceeded £10,000. One woman had fraudulently claimed more than £28,000 in benefits over several years.

A council spokesman pointed out that their team receives referrals of possible fraud cases from many sources, including the public, the DWP, and the Housing Benefit Matching Service.

There were 13 successful prosecutions for misuse of blue badge permits.


In other benefit fraud news

Lydia Frempong, a life coach employed by Channel 4 to give confidence lessons to its staff, is exposed as a benefits cheat who carried out £5,000 scam

Deborah Otter and Nigel Bailey, a benefit cheat couple from Alsager, claimed £18k – despite having £140k in the bank, h/t Dave

Kelly Rowe benefits cheat from Macclesfield in £9k claim, h/t Dave

Jail for two housing benefit frauds

An Ealing student and a Hanwell man have been sent to prison for fraudulently claiming thousands in housing benefits after failing to notify Ealing Council of changes in their circumstances.

Taha Hussein, 33, was sentenced to eight weeks for failing to say he was a student and receiving student benefits, as well as holding undeclared bank accounts. As a result, he was overpaid more than £11,000 in housing benefits from 2006-08.

In a separate case, Saeid Eskandari, 37, was jailed for six weeks for claiming benefits he knew he was not entitled to. Returned post from the Hanwell address, where he no longer lived, sparked an investigation by the council’s fraud team which revealed he had dishonestly claimed more than £14,800 in benefits over 17 months from October 2010 to March 2012.

Both men pleaded guilty and were sentenced at Ealing Magistrates’ Court. The council is seeking to recover all money overpaid.


24 Jul 2014

The wheels of justice continue to grind slow

We noted con woman Yvonne Doyle here.

Dave points out that today - seven months after she was sentenced - she has been ordered to repay £107,584 from her husband’s bank account within six months or serve an extra two years imprisonment, with all the money recovered to be returned to the victims as compensation.


Blackpool benefit fraud "up 50%"

More than £1.8m was “stolen” from Blackpool taxpayers last year through fraudulent benefit claims, new figures reveal.

The total represents overpayments identified by Blackpool Council’s Benefit Fraud Team working alongside investigators from the Department of Work and Pensions in some cases, and is up from £1.2m the previous year.

During the last financial year (2013/14), the team uncovered housing benefit and council tax fraud amounting to just more than £1.2m, while joint inquiries with the DWP accounted for £600,000 of other benefits which recipients were not entitled to.

A report to councillors said the figures were “a strong indication that benefit fraud continues to be a problem in Blackpool.”

Formal action was taken in 294 cases on different levels, including 80 completed prosecutions.

In 2012/13 an estimated £1.2bn was lost in benefit fraud nationwide.

Blackpool Council’s Benefit Fraud Team will join the Department for Work and Pensions as part of the Single Fraud Investigation Service from April next year.

Recent cases in Blackpool include DJ Paul Holt who made false claims over a four-year period while working as an entertainer at the Hacketts York House Hotel, on Queens Promenade, Bispham. He had legitimately claimed a number of benefits from 2001 – after suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of being caught up in the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985 which left 56 people dead. However, after returning to work at the hotel in April 2010 he neglected to tell the authorities of the change in his condition and continued to claim income support, disability living allowance, housing and council tax benefits. He was jailed for six months at Preston Crown Court after racking up almost £57,000 in false benefits.

Also in January, a grandfather who said he was so disabled he spent all day in his dressing gown was caught out after it emerged he was working three different jobs. He appeared before magistrates in January for defrauding the public purse of £12,000, and was jailed for 56 days.

In February this year a former soldier who failed to mention he was in receipt of an Army pension when he started to get Jobseekers Allowance, was fined £300 after magistrates heard that as a result he was overpaid £4,183.

Figures for previous years show benefit fraud uncovered by the Blackpool team totalled £1.1m in 2010/11 and £1.5m in 2011/12. Blackpool Council bosses refused to 
discuss the issue further.

In April this year the Government introduced new rules aimed at deterring benefit fraud. These include that up to 40 per cent can be deducted from benefits payments so money is returned more quickly, an increase in financial penalties from £2,000 to £5,000, and using bailiffs to confiscate high value possession from convicted benefits cheats.

This is the tip of the iceberg.


23 Jul 2014

Benefit cheat defrauded taxpayers of nearly £30,000 by pretending partner was her landlord

A benefit cheat has avoided an immediate prison sentence after she claimed nearly £30,000 in housing benefits when she pretended her partner was her landlord.

Rubina Bariwala, aged 34, fraudulently duped Bolton Council for more than three years when she claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit. She also wrongly claimed income support for more two months as she said she was a single parent.

Bariwala claimed £28,000 before her crimes were uncovered.

Bolton Council’s and the Department for Work and Pensions discovered her alleged landlord Imran Selot, aged 32, was the father of her children and lived with her and their two youngsters in their home in Deane Church Lane, Deane. Selot provided false details for the tenancy agreement and claimed he lived in Preston.

No one was suspicious because the couple had different surnames. But the alarm was raised when their second child was born and he had the same name as Selot, Bariwala’s alleged landlord.

She admitted a catalogue of charges relating to dishonestly claiming support for her benefit and was sentenced to a six month jail term, suspended for two years. She was ordered to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work.

Selot, who pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting Bariwala to make a false declaration on a housing benefit and council tax benefit change of address form, was given a community order with a four month curfew from 6pm to 6am.

Both were both ordered to pay £900 costs and an £80 victim surcharge at Bolton Magistrates Court.

The defendants each have to repay £10 per week. They will also repay Bolton Council for taking benefits fraudulently. They money will be paid monthly and was agreed out of court.

They have both since married.

A council spokesman said:
We are committed to protecting public funds and bringing benefit cheats to justice. While most benefit claimants are honest, there are unfortunately some who abuse the system. People pretending to live alone to get benefits is one of the most common types of benefit fraud. This particular case was a bit unusual as the claimant’s partner actually turned out to be her landlord
.Well, it's not so very unusual.

22 Jul 2014

Benefits cheat who scammed £100,000 in nine years of lies is given 178 YEARS to pay back money to taxpayers

A benefits cheat has been given 178 years to pay back the money she swindled from taxpayers. (h/t Dave)

Nicola Daly claimed £100,000 in council tax, housing benefit and income support payments for almost nine years.

Daly, of Tilehurst, Berkshire, was given a 16-month jail sentence for the fraud which was only discovered after her elderly mother-in-law inadvertently revealed the deception it with a residential care application.

A judge heard that Daly claimed the cash after lying to her local council that she was raising her two children alone.

In fact the cheat had lived with her partner, who worked for John Lewis, for several years and continued to do so despite repeatedly claiming she had been estranged from him for 15 years.

The trickster was finally caught after her elderly mother-in-law applied for residential care and declared that she owned a house where her son Steven Randall and Daly both lived.

The 39-year-old was sentenced to 16 months in prison at Reading Crown Court after admitting five charges of fraud and making false statements.

The court heard she is repaying the amount at a rate of £50 a month, which will take a staggering 178 years for the total to be recovered.

Alison Ginn prosecuting, said: 'Between June 2004 and March 2013, very nearly nine years, Daly claimed and received benefits in the form of income support, housing support and council tax benefits to which she was not entitled. The total amount she received was £107,154.50. She was representing that she was a single parent living with her children when in fact she lived with their father, Steven Randall, who was employed from June 2004 at John Lewis in Bracknell, Berkshire.'

The court heard that Daly had clearly stated on benefit claim forms to Reading Borough Council that she only lived with her two children, now aged five and 11 years.

Mrs Ginn said: 'Reading Borough Council requested more information and she said that she was not in contact with Steven Randall and he had not paid any maintenance for his children.' She added in subsequent claims that she had not spoken the man she lived with for 15 years.

'It all came to light when Mr Randall's mother, Ivy, completed an application for people seeking residential care, on which she said she jointly owned a premises with her son, who lived there with his partner and children,' said Mrs Ginn. 'Mr Randall's wages were being paid into this defendant's bank account, the same one into which her benefits were paid.'

When Daly was questioned by police in March 2013, she lied and said the father of her children was Mr Randall's brother Darren. She claimed to have never been in a relationship with Mr Randall and said his wages were only paid into her account as he had debt problems. However, she requested a second interview a month later and admitted her web of lies, telling police she lied as she 'thought she could get away with it'.

Graham Bennett, mitigating, said Daly had some previous convictions but none for over a decade. He said that at the time of the initial false claim, she and her partner had struggled with drug addictions and she had just given birth to their first child.

'She was in significant financial difficulties,' said Mr Bennett. 'The income support gave rise to council tax and housing benefit and the same false declarations were made. Regrettably she did not correct matters and this continued throughout the years.'

He said the couple had married in April this year and Daly was working part-time to repay her debt at £50 per month. 'It is not a repayment that is going to be dealt with swiftly but her intent is to repay as much as possible,' said Mr Bennett.

He asked Judge Johannah Cutts to consider a suspended prison sentence due to the difficulty a custodial term would present to her young family.

Judge Cutts said she recognised that 'life had been difficult' for Daly in 2004 and commended her for beating her drug addiction, but condemned her lies:
Social security support is not to pay people who feel hard up, it doesn't come from a limitless supply of cash. Taxpayers' money is used in a benevolent society to help those truly in need and you did not fall into that category.
Sentencing Daly to 16 months in prIson, she added: 'It is often the families of those who commit crimes who suffer the most.'

Three related charges, which Daly denied, were left to lay on file by the Crown Prosecution Service.

21 Jul 2014

A practitioner writes

In the comments to a previous post a practitioner writes
Fraud staff only get involved when a claim is referred to them. I regularly process claims which I think are suspicious, I cant do anything else without proof. As single parent fraud appears to be the easiest then more should be done when a child is born and more spot checks on live claims. But my manager wants claims to be processed as quickly as possible because that is how we are judged. I have always said that 'mystery shoppers' should make fraudulent claims and then see how many get paid. The results would be staggering!

19 Jul 2014

Illegal sub-letter caught and sued

A tenant who was subletting her council property has been ordered to pay back more than £10,000 to Greenwich Borough Council.

On 4 July, Chesterfield County Court judge Davies found that Ms Jean Neal, formerly a tenant at Sunbury Street, Woolwich, should pay £10,970 plus costs. The council brought a small claim in the county court.

Ms Neal was residing in Derbyshire and sublet her property from 15 April 2011 to 19 August 2012.

District judge Davies said that Ms Neal must pay back the money, plus interest, expenses and legal costs to the council. The total amount due to be repaid is £12,169.83.

Chris Kirby, cabinet member for housing, said:
In the last few years the Royal Borough [of Greenwich] has strengthened its investigation techniques and these new detection methods are now being used to full effect. This successful case is another example of the innovative work now being undertaken and sends a strong message to those that set out to sublet our valuable housing stock that “you will get caught” and we will seek to recover our financial losses.

18 Jul 2014

24 people charged with £400,000 DWP benefit fraud

Andrew Penhale, Deputy Head of the CPS Specialist Fraud Division said:
Following an investigation by the Central Criminal Investigation Service, part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the CPS has authorised charges against 18 men and six women, all of whom live or work in London, in connection with alleged benefit fraud.

On dates between July 2011 and September 2013, it is alleged that these individuals took part in a large-scale, organised attack on the DWP benefits claims and payments system, dishonestly obtaining £446,844.85 between them.

In order to carry out this fraud, it is alleged that the defendants hijacked the identities of innocent members of the public without their knowledge or consent. The evidence suggests that some of the defendants had access to third party personal data before providing details to other defendants in order for them to make fraudulent claims for DWP benefits, namely Jobseekers Allowance and Employment Support Allowance.

The 24 individuals are charged with conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation. In accordance with the Code for Crown Prosecutors, we have determined that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and a prosecution of all the defendants is in the public interest.

The defendants are due to appear before Westminster Magistrates' Court on Wednesday, 23 July 2014. They have a right to a fair trial and it is extremely important that there should be no reporting, commentary or sharing of information online which could in any way prejudice these proceedings.
From the CPS website