21 Jul 2017

Disability benefit fraudster to be sentenced

A benefits cheat who said he could not walk more than 50 metres climbed Mount Kilimanjaro and won a triathlon.

Mark Lloyd, of Ynysybwl, Rhondda Cynon Taff, claimed £6,551.80 in Personal Independence Payments, saying a slipped disc in his back left him in agony. At the same time, the 33-year-old competed in races, climbed Africa's highest peak, went wing-walking and skied in the Alps.

He was convicted of a fraud charge at Merthyr Tydfil Magistrates' Court.

Chris Evans, prosecuting, said: "He said he can only walk between 20 and 50 metres, can't walk on uneven ground, suffers pain when walking long distances and needs to sit down every 20 minutes."

He claimed the cash between October 2014 and February 2016, but the court was shown photos of Lloyd competing in the HSBC triathlon in September 2015 - a race he won in the adult taster category. That month, he was also pictured posing with an African guide during his five-day trek to the peak of Kilimanjaro in Tanzania which involved walking between eight and 12 hours a day. He also took part in the World Powerboat Championships in Malta.

Lloyd told benefits assessors he could not bend or stretch and needed walking aids. He was medically discharged from the Army in 2011 after suffering an injury to his lower back while serving in Afghanistan.

In 2014, he applied for the Personal Independence Payment - up to £141 a week for those suffering long-term ill health to help cover costs of their care. The following year, he applied for more money, saying his condition had worsened and he would be bedridden for a day if he walked more than 164 ft (50m).

Mr Evans said: "The case is not whether he has an injury or not, but if he exaggerated his condition to claim money."

Lloyd admitted filling in risk assessment forms to enter three triathlons without revealing he suffered ill health. He said: "I didn't want any special treatment or assistance. I wanted to be self-sufficient and compete at the same level as everyone else." Despite saying he struggled to walk, Lloyd reached the peak of Kilimanjaro.

James Harris, defending, said Lloyd had not been dishonest and was able to push through the pain barrier because of his Army training. "When climbing Mount Kilimanjaro he said he pushed himself and was in agony," he told the court.

District Judge Martin Brown called Lloyd's defence "nonsense" and said he deliberately lied to get "every penny he could".

The court heard the offence took place while he was serving a 20-week suspended prison sentence for common assault.

Lloyd denied one count of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for himself, but was convicted following a trial. He will be sentenced in August.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: "Only a small minority of people try to cheat the benefits system, but cases like this show how we are rooting out those who are stealing taxpayers' money and diverting it away from the people who really need it."

The fraud seems to have been pretty easy.

Source with pictures

20 Jul 2017

Benefit claims continued after inheritance

A benefits cheat who claimed more than £40,000 she wasn’t entitled to has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Eileen Mary Chadwick, 61, had put a joint application for herself and her husband to receive hundreds of pounds per month in benefits.

Those claims included income support, Employment and Support Allowance and housing benefit.

The fraudulent claims, which spanned a period of four years and eight months, saw Chadwick, from Bacup, receive £43,730 she wasn’t entitles to, according to prosecutors. The defence said that figure was closer to £34,000.

Prosecutor Mark Stephenson said the claims, which date back to August 2011, did not start off as fraudulent but Chadwick and her husband’s financial circumstances changed when his mother died and he inherited a joint share in her house. The court heard Mr Chadwick inherited the property in February 2011 and a tenant moved in the following August, paying rent of £250 per month. That was jointly split between Mr Chadwick and his brother.

The prosecution said Chadwick failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions and Rossendale Council about the change, which would have affected the couple’s entitlement to benefits.

Mr Stephenson said: “It is right to say all of these claims in the first instance were made properly and there was no deception. The total sum overpaid was £43,730.64. One thing we can be sure of is the sum of overpayment of the housing benefit is £17,300. That would not be paid if they had a house which they owned. This is not a straightforward case. The house was not strictly owned by the defendant. It was owned by her husband and her husband’s brother. This defendant is solely here today because the joint application was made in her name and not his. This is an unusual case but we can only prosecute the person who made the application.”

Chadwick, who is still unemployed and unable to work because of severe arthritis, pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances.

Defending, Mark Stuart said once his client had failed to notify the authorities of the change in circumstances it became more difficult to admit the deception as time went on. He said: “I accept, on the defendant’s behalf, the criminality is she failed to declare when her husband started to get rental income from that particular property. She ought to have done so. Effectively they received £7,500 rental income which should have been declared."

Judge Andrew Blake sentenced Chadwick to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered her to pay the statutory victim surcharge. She will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing later this year.


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.’


14 Jul 2017

BBFI discuss social housing fraud

BBFI agree with us about social housing fraud. They say

Social housing fraud is the wickedest form of welfare fraud. There’s more than the financial dimension: there isn’t enough social housing available, so every fraudulent occupation lengthens waiting lists, and every detection gives a family or individual in temporary accommodation a better life.

The Audit Commission put the cost of social housing tenancy fraud to the taxpayer nationally at £1.8 billion in 2012. Councils recovered nearly 1,800 homes in 2011, with a total replacement value of nearly £264 million. But this barely scratches the surface of the problem.

Experian suggests that at least 160,000 social homes are unlawfully sublet in the UK, but we believe this is a very low estimate. A study of social housing fraud in Westminster reported a raid on one Paddington housing block that revealed 75% of housing benefit claimants were not living in their registered properties and were illegally subletting them for thousands of pounds a week. Another raid, on the luxury 600-flat Park West development on Edgware Road, found 61% of claimants were subletting their properties. The cost of social housing fraud in the City of Westminster alone may be as much as £22 million a year.

Freeing up sublet properties would be the cheapest and quickest way to make more social housing available. There are 8 million council or housing association homes in England and 1.8 million households on the waiting list. Tackling subletting and property misuse could go a long way to releasing the 1.8 million homes to genuine tenants in waiting.

Of the 4.1 million socially owned homes 2.2 million are rented from local authorities, and 1.9 million from other social landlords. This is a national asset that needs to be protected from people who want to misuse that asset. That misuse takes many forms. For example, we will investigate:

  • Unlawful subletting, including subletting the whole property to a single household, and multiple sublets within one property
  • Non-occupation by tenants as their principal home
  • Wrongly claimed succession: retention of a tenancy following the death or vacation of the tenant following a previous succession, or of a non-qualifying person
  • Unlawful assignment
  • “Key selling”, where the tenant leaves the property and passes on the keys in return for a one-off lump sum payment or favour
  • Fraudulently obtaining a social housing tenancy, including misrepresentation of identity and misrepresentation of circumstances

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.


12 Jul 2017

Bizarre blue badge misuse

A Lamborghini driver with a personalised number plate used a disabled parking badge to park illegally then refused to leave a restaurant when asked to hand the badge over.

Wardens spotted the distinctive red Lamborghini parked on yellow lines in Greenwich town centre on June 5. When the wardens went to put a parking ticket on the supercar, Tamer Zinnureyin stepped out from his restaurant and placed a disabled parking blue badge on the dashboard.

Zinnureyin, 40, then claimed the car wasn’t his and promptly rushed inside the next-door restaurant and refused to come out and surrender the badge.

Police arrived and were unable to locate Zinnureyin, but family members passed over the car keys and the blue badge was confiscated.

Under police interview at a later date, Zinnureyin, of High Street in Chislehurst, claimed his mum had found the badge outside the restaurant and gave it to him, with his intention being to return it.

Zinnureyin pleaded guilty to blue badge misuse and was fined £440, plus costs of £268 with a £44 victim surcharge.

Greenwich Council's cabinet member for customer services and anti-fraud, councillor Maureen O’Mara, said: “This successful prosecution shows how seriously the Royal Borough of Greenwich takes its ongoing commitment to prevent and detect fraud. We take rigorous action to stop Blue Badge misuse which is good news for all genuine Blue Badge holders who so often are inconvenienced by other car drivers who take up valuable parking spaces whilst misusing Blue Badges they have no right to use.”


11 Jul 2017

Couple in sneaky benefit fraud

A couple continued to claim benefits without declaring that one was working as a parcel delivery driver.

Blackburn magistrates heard Tracy Butcher received more than £6,000 carers allowance she wasn't entitled to. Her partner, Paul Robert Coia, received more than £20,000 in employment support allowance and housing benefit.

Coia, 47, and Butcher, 46, both from Blackburn, pleaded guilty to dishonestly making false statements to obtain benefits.

Coia was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison suspended for 24 months and ordered to pay £115 victim surcharge and £85 costs.

Butcher was made subject to community supervision for three months with a three months curfew between 8 pm and 8 am and ordered to pay £85 costs and £85 costs.

Philippa White, prosecuting, said Coia had a previous conviction for benefit fraud in 2006.

She said Butcher's employment had a direct impact on his claims.

"He said he was suffering from depression at the time and totally forgot to inform the local authority and the Department of Work and Pensions."

Ben Leech, defending, said there had been a lot of confusion on Butcher's part about what she was and was not allowed to earn and still claim.


He said he was depressed, and she got carer's allowance.

10 Jul 2017

Even the official benefit fraud numbers are getting worse

Taxpayers have been robbed of a staggering £2.4 billion in the past year in welfare benefits through fraud and in payments made in error by officials.

The figure is more than enough to give all public sector workers an extra 1% pay rise at a time when there is pressure to end the austerity cap on their wages.

Total overpayments by the Department for Work and Pensions in 2016-17 were £3.5 billion, according to figures released last week. Officials clawed back £1.1 billion but that still left £2.4 billion lost to fraud and incompetence. Senior politicians blamed a ‘farcical’ computer system for the scandal and called on Ministers to ‘get a grip’ of the scandal.

Fraud alone totalled £2 billion before money was recovered – up by £400 million on the previous year.

The 25% rise comes despite a dedicated anti-fraud unit being set up last year on the instructions of former Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith. The remaining £1.5 billion was wrongly paid out because of clerical errors.

Labour MP Frank Field, the Work and Pensions Committee chairman, said: ‘They have no idea how much money they are losing. I believe the real figure could be even higher.’ He claimed that the loss of thousands of jobs at the DWP meant that it ‘simply does not have the staff any more to check up on claimants to see if they are genuine. The farcical computerisation of the benefits system has been a gift to fraudsters and gangs who know how to play the system.’

Dame Margaret Hodge, a former chairman of Commons spending watchdog, the Public Accounts Committee, said: ‘It is an absolute scandal that at a time when they are cutting benefits and services, the Government is throwing billions of pounds away. Ministers need to get a grip.’

In one extraordinary case, one benefits claimant who was given an extra £546,000 due to a computer error was granted 959 years to pay it back.

The DWP report said untimely and inaccurate reporting of income and earnings was the largest cause of fraud and error, which amounted to 2% of all benefits payments last year.

Whitehall sources said £1.5 billion in housing benefit wrongly paid out by councils accounted for 40% of overpayments. Ministers hope a new digital system, Universal Credit, will cut fraud by linking benefit claims to PAYE data.

The DWP said: ‘We are committed to tackling fraud and error in the benefits system.’


Of course the real benefit fraud losses are far higher.

4 Jul 2017

Harwood goes to jail

Reality TV star and benefit cheat Chelsey Harwood has been jailed after refusing to use public transport to carry out community service because she didn't want to mix with "scallies".

She was ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work, given a four month suspended prison sentence and a tag in April after her media bragging about her earnings led to her being uncovered as a £25,000 benefits cheat.

In a lively hearing Liverpool Crown Court heard that she has only attended for the one hour induction session with the probation service and failed to attend on April 25 and May 26 and sent in sick notes stating stress or depression.

Chelsey has been sent to a nearby woman's prison. She was consequently summonsed back to court and during the proceedings today she repeatedly interjected from the dock and said she would rather go to jail.

Judge Andrew Menary said that the probation service had “bent over backwards” to accommodate her but it was plain that without “catering for her every whim” she would not complete the order.

Former web cam girl Harwood said last month that the probation office was 25 miles from her home and she refused to get the bus as she did not want to mix with “scallies.”

Ben Jones, prosecuting, told the court that there had been “no effective engagement” from her with the community requirements.

Defence lawyer John Rowan, said, “She wants me to advance on her behalf from the outset that this is not a flagrant disregard of the order from her point of view.” He said that she had attended her local probation office in St Helens and while in reception there was a man, whom she did not know, who left a message on social media making several threats towards her.

“I have seen these messages, provided to me this morning, they are on her iPad. I have read them they are serious threats to harm her." He said they related to the fraud and her gender. Asked by the judge if she had told the police Mr Rowan said she had not.

Harwood, who was wearing a black jacket, white top and jeans, then shouted out from the dock, “Am I allowed to answer any of these questions? This is ridiculous, it’s not fair. He threatened to burn my house down, yes I took them seriously. No I didn’t go to the police because I would be in more danger.”

The judge responded, “Everybody knows this defendant courts publicity. Far from keeping a low profile, at every stage of this process she has posted on line regular bulletins on what she has expected to happen, what did happen and various posts since then. The court to have regard to on line activity when all of this has been encouraged by her.”

Harwood shouted, “No it isn’t. So I should be threatened just for living my life and posting it on social media? Send me to jail and I’ll complete the two months. I’m not going to complete your order. Send me to jail, I i’m not going to put myself in danger for you or anybody.”

Mr Rowan said that Harwood, who admitted breaching the court order, is fearful of attending for unpaid work, attending the office and putting herself at risk of harm.

Judge Menary said, “The probation service has bent over backwards to accommodate her and she had been offered the chance to complete the programme on Wirral. Why didn’t turn up?”

Mr Rowan said that “she is anxious in relation to public transport” but the judge pointed out that she said she had access to a car and could drive but Mr Rowan said that unfortunately was no longer the case as she was nervous following a traffic accident a few months previously.

“The only way she could get there was public transport and she felt mentally unable to do so.” The judge queried this and Mr Rowan confirmed that that was the situation. “While she would like to be able to complete the order she doesn’t feel at this time that she is able to.”

Judge Menary said that he had told her at the time when the sentence was imposed that it was a direct alternative to immediate imprisonment and failing to complete the requirements could lead to her going to prison. "You are perfectly entitled to do, some sort of online persona and managed to cultivate a social media celebrity status.

"There is nothing particularly edifying or positive about the image you have created for yourself. Following your sentence you deliberately posted or encouraged the posting of images celebrating the type of sentence you received. If that was an attempt to ridicule the sentence or the court it failed and none of that is of any concern to me today. My only concerns were that you completed the requirements properly and on time ….you have completely failed.”

He said that probation officers had “bent over backwards to try and accommodate your particular special requirements” and arrangements had been made for her to attend the Wirral office as she feared threats or abuse when attending her local office. “I accept you have been the subject of on line threats. These were no doubt triggered by your own continuing on line activity which has continued unabated including posting details of this breach proceedings. This makes it plain to me that you have no intention of completing the requirements at all, certainly without a great deal of extensive and extra resources being expended by probation services catering for your every whim.”

He said he was going to activate the suspended jail term but only in part as she had completed the eight week curfew he had imposed. He revoked the rest of the original order.

When he sentenced her initially in April he described 29-year-old transgender Harwood of living in a “fantasy world” with an unhealthy celebrity life style. Harwood, of Merseyside, had pleaded guilty to three benefit fraud offences involving a total of £25,156 between April 2013 and January last year.

Source with all too many pictures

3 Jul 2017

Scots mull short jail terms for benefit fraud

Do short jail terms for benefit fraud deter re-offending? Benefit fraudsters may be less likely than other criminals to re-offend in the first place, so what are the recidivist rates for benefit fraudsters who are jailed as opposed to those who aren't? Maybe benefit fraudsters are more susceptible to a 'short sharp shock'.

The SNP is under attack from prison reform campaigners over plans to hand short jail terms to benefit cheats, despite ministers admitting that the punishment does do not work.

A Scottish government consultation revealed overwhelming support among experts for introducing a presumption against sentences that lasted less than a year to keep low-level offenders out of prison.

It followed evidence that brief stints in jail do little to rehabilitate criminals and make it more likely they will commit further crimes after release.

A new social security bill says, however , that welfare fraudsters in less serious cases — and dealt with under summary proceedings in sheriff courts — will face a fine or imprisonment for no longer than 12 months.

The Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland said that it was “disappointing” to see ministers continuing to legislate for short jail sentences despite a commitment to reduce the number of people put behind bars.

Proportionally, Scotland has one of the highest jail populations in Western Europe, locking up more than twice as many people as countries including the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden.

Michael Matheson, the justice secretary, has said short stints in prison “simply do not work”, waste public money and risk increasing crime in the long term.

A Howard League spokeswoman added: “Prison should be reserved for the most serious offenders. We have welcomed the Scottish government’s commitment to reducing the use of short prison sentences in favour of community penalties.

“It’s therefore disappointing that this bill contains provision for a punishment under summary justice, for the offence of benefit fraud, of a short prison sentence.”

The new bill has been introduced at Holyrood to pave the way for delivery of sweeping new welfare powers which are being devolved from Westminster.

The Scottish government will become responsible for 11 benefits and gain the ability to “top up” others. The draft law states that in the most serious cases of benefit fraud the maximum punishment will be a jail term of up to five years.

A consultation on extending the presumption against short sentences closed more than 18 months ago. Only 5 per cent disagreed with a proposal to extend it, with 84 per cent backing a one-year threshold.

Courts would be allowed to disregard the guidelines if they felt a short sentence was still appropriate.

Many experts believe that short sentences are not long enough to deliver meaningful rehabilitation. They say the sentences disrupt offenders’ lives, leaving them without benefits or housing upon release, making reoffending more likely once they are let out.

It has been suggested that community sentences produce better results and would help to close a “revolving door” in prisons.

Those against extending the presumption have raised concerns that it could benefit those guilty of domestic violence and send a message that Scotland is soft on crime.

Liam McArthur, justice spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, accused the government of adopting “evasive tactics” that “don’t do justice to anyone.”

He said: “On one hand they say they are working to keep people out of prison on short-term sentences, while on the other hand they press ahead with laws that would do the opposite.”

A spokesman for the Scottish government said it was still discussing the issue of extending the presumption.