25 Aug 2015

Gravesham reveals local fraud totals

Fraud investigators have revealed cheats falsely claimed £700,000 worth of housing and council tax benefits in Gravesham last year. (h/t Dave)

Gravesham Borough Council has identified £535,136 was wrongly claimed in housing benefits while council tax fraud totalled £173,390.

The money was uncovered after 636 investigations into fraudsters with more than a thousand allegations made in the borough last year.

Inquiries led to the recovery of 10 council properties and 13 convictions for benefit fraud offences. Fifteen cautions were issued for minor offences.

This is not much from 636 investigations, though!


21 Aug 2015

Derbyshire couple ‘plundered’ benefits for lavish lifestyle

A couple has been jailed after an investigation into benefit fraud found they were ‘plundering the benefits system’ to maintain a ‘lavish’ lifestyle, a court was told.

Shireena Kilnorton has been sentenced to a year in prison after wrongly claiming benefits for five years, having told the Department of Work and Pensions she was living as a single mum.

And her teenage children will now be left without a primary carer as their stepfather, Paul Kilnorton also faces a jail term for weapons offences.

Derby Crown Court was told on Friday, August 14 how police officers found the two were supplementing a ‘lavish’ lifestyle on benefits, and discovered three illegal weapons at their home in East View, Langwith.

At a sentencing hearing the prosecution outlined how Mrs Kilnorton opened three benefits claims in 2006, which she was entitled to while the couple had separated.

But when they reunited and failed to disclose the change of circumstances her claims for income support, housing benefits and council tax benefit continued.

And from 2009 to 2014 the court heard the evidence was ‘overwhelming, to the point of being crushing’ that the two were living together as man and wife.

Mr Kilnorton made some 30 calls to his landlord over building repairs in the period – he opened a joint bank account for the couple in 2012 and had also bought a new Land Rover Discovery, registered to the house.

When police conducted a search of the property they found two 40-inch flat screen televisions at either end of the living room, connected to a variety of games consoles, said the prosecutor Steven Taylor.

He added: “Their kitchen might be described as state-of-the-art, with a walk-in fridge stocked with food, and they had an interesting taste in consumables.”

The master bedroom gave further evidence they were living as a couple, with his-and-hers wardrobes, ‘so it was manifestly obvious to officers that the two were living together as man and wife’.

It was then that police found illegal weapons in the house, namely two stun guns in a plastic bag on the desk, and a canister of CS gas inside a locked safe.

Mr Kilnorton, described as a ‘good earner’ with a salary of £27,000 as a long-distance lorry driver, also had two driver’s licences in different names, the court heard.

Mr and Mrs Kilnorton, who have since been evicted from the address and had their benefits sanctioned, acquired more than £42,000 fraudulently from the Government - and the court heard that even though they clearly had an affectionate relationship, Mr Kilnorton said it was his wife that made the claims in interview.

Presiding, Mr Recorder Dominic Nolan QC, agreed with his defence, Andrew Malloy, saying: “She is the one that must take responsibility.”

In quantifying Mrs Kilnorton’s culpability, the prosecution said her act was as simple as ‘putting in a claim and then you keep taking the money until they catch you’.

However when previously challenged about the fraud Mrs Kilnorton denied any wrong doing.

Mr Nolan added: “You lied, and you got away with it. You then committed offences after receiving the clearest warning.”

Her defence barrister Christopher Brewin argued the case for a suspended sentence, as the couple’s two teenage children will lose their primary carer if she is sent to prison.

But after hearing that they had a wide extended family, the judge handed out immediate custodial sentences for both.

The recorder said in closing: “There are many people with real needs, needs not fully met because of restraints on budget which are made worse by those who plunder the benefits system for the sake of greed.”

After her guilty plea, Shireena Kilnorton was sentenced to a total of 66 months of prison sentences over four counts, to be served concurrently over 21 months.

Paul Kilnorton, pleaded guilty to the weapons charges, and received sentences for each weapon totalling three and a half years, to be served concurrently over 12 months.


20 Aug 2015

Light sentences for recidivist criminals

A pair of benefit cheats have walked free from court after claiming almost £75,000 of welfare payments they were not entitled to.

Michael McQuoid, 60, claimed his mobility was so poor he could not walk and needed help with everyday tasks such as getting dressed and washing.

But investigators saw him moving easily in and out of a car and helping his wife Susan – who was claiming benefits as his carer – with her mail order catalogue business, Preston Crown Court heard.

Both defendants were previously convicted of selling fake Rolex watches last year and Mr McQuoid also has a conviction for selling cars which did not exist in 2009.

The court heard Mr McQuoid – who now lives in a caravan in Monks Wood Hall, Out Rawcliffe – started claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in 2009 at the higher rate for care and mobility. He also claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit, totalling £58,718.62.

His wife Susan, 56, claimed £17,000 of carer’s allowance - despite bringing in £41,000 from her book and gift selling business – which she failed to declare. Instead, she claimed her caring duties to her husband severely restricted her ability to work.

Mr McQuoid pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud, after being confronted with surveillance which showed him lifting and carrying boxes and getting in and out of the car without any support. He was also seen walking further than the limited distance he claimed to be able to cover unaided.

Mrs McQuoid admitted a single count of benefit fraud.

It is understood they are both now paying back the money they cheated from the state.

Recorder Simon Berkson, sentencing, said: “Benefits are paid so that people can survive in society. Dishonesty costs the public purse significant amounts of money each year and affects all areas of public spending – including health care which you have benefited from over this time.”

He handed Mr McQuoid an eight month sentence, suspended for two years and put Mrs McQuoid on 12 months supervision with the probation service.


17 Aug 2015

Kolawole Oladimeji fined for illegal sub-letting

A social housing tenant has been fined for renting out his property in a landmark case.

Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard Kolawole Oladimeji moved out of the house on Oaklands Grove, Gipton, and let it to an unsuspecting family for a profit.

Chevin Housing property management organisation alerted Leeds City Council after finding out what he was doing.

Following a joint investigation, a decision was taken to prosecute through the courts in the first case pursued under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act.

The court heard Oladimeji advertised the property on a free internet classified web page, issued a fake tenancy agreement and even obtained £1,500 rent in advance as well as a deposit.

The 37-year-old who gave his address as Crown Street, Reading, pleaded guilty to sub-letting the property.

He was ordered to pay a fine and costs amounting to £784.17 along with £355 in compensation. The £1,500 advance rent has also been repaid.

The council said it had now recovered more than 200 properties from suspected fraudsters.

Executive board member for communities Coun Debra Coupar said:
This landmark case demonstrates the steps we are willing to take with local housing associations to tackle tenancy fraud in our city. Social housing is for genuine applicants who need a safe and secure home.

When a tenant sublets their property it deprives another family on the waiting list of a home. This case should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks they can profit from committing tenancy fraud that we are watching closely and strong action will be taken if an offence is found to have taken place.

Good old Yorkshire name, Kolawole Oladimeji.

If the council has recovered over 200 properties that is a lot of cost saving - though the council do not say over what period the houses were recovered. Nor do they state their total housing stock.

But if  more than 200 have been recovered, there are probably plenty more wrongly occupied.

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

Against that background, the court's sentence looks regrettably puny.

13 Aug 2015

Lottery winner jailed for benefit fraud

Benefit bosses are warning other fraudsters that they are hot on their heels after a Mansfield lottery winner was jailed.

Pensioner Lynn Doreen Swain was found to have swindled more than £90,000 over a 17-year period. The 68-year-old had spent years claiming she was living alone, but was in fact married.

Financial details obtained through the DWP found that during that time, Swain had even enjoyed a windfall on the lottery, landing more than £29,000.

Following the successful prosecution, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) issued a statement warning others about scrounging cash they are not entitled to.

Paul Baggeley, the DWP’s fraud manger said:
Most people claiming benefits are honest, but there are the unscrupulous minority who cheat taxpayers’ money out of our welfare system and divert it away from those who really need it. People pretending to live alone to get benefits is one of the most common types of benefit fraud, and this case shows our investigators are bringing criminals to justice. Failure to report a change in circumstances that may affect your benefit claim, such as a partner moving in, is a crime. Small amounts of weekly overpayments build up and you could end up having to pay back tens of thousands of pounds. People must tell us if their situation changes before it’s too late.
Swain came to the attention of the authorities through data matching, when agencies come together to share information on suspected benefit cheats.

It was found that she had been fraudulently claiming from December 1996, up to November 2013.

She had been claiming income support, pension credit, housing and council tax benefits she was not entitled to. There were also saving in her accounts that she had kept quiet.

She had claimed them under her maiden name, Wightman, and had failed to tell then authorities that she was married, was living with her husband and that her name had been changed to Swain.

Admitting fraud charges, she admitted the pair had been living together since May, 1995.

She was jailed at Nottingham Crown Court for 12 months.


The sleazy benefit fraud economy

Undercover reporters investigating benefit cheats for a Channel 5 documentary were shocked to discover a whole host of illegal activities at a Nottingham mini-mart.

As well as getting staff to admit they were still claiming unemployed benefits, investigative journalist Paul Connolly and his team also found evidence that the store was selling counterfeit cigarettes and antibiotics without prescriptions.

The dodgy dealings are revealed in an episode of Undercover Benefits Cheat after a reporter, equipped with a hidden camera, obtained a job at the shop in the Midlands.

She tells the shop manager, known as Aram, that she would like to work full-time whilst still claiming Jobseeker's Allowance.

The handout is only available to those who work up to 16 hours a week - so Aram tells her he will pay her cash in hand and fudge her payslips.

He said: 'If one day the Jobcentre push you to work, do full-time but we'll give you payslips for only 16 hours a week. If anybody comes in, even if it's next year, just say you've started work. If they see you working, say "this is my first day".'

The undercover reporter finds she's not the only one given such an offer of employment at the store.

Another worker tells her he still claims benefits despite being employed. He said: 'It's better for you to still go to the Jobcentre, don't tell them you are working here. I get the money, there's no one who knows I am working here.'

Whilst working undercover, the reporter appears to discover the store has a lucrative black market trade in smuggled cigarettes and under-the-counter medicine.

She found evidence of counterfeit goods hidden around the store in trap doors under fridges and secret compartments behind shelves and air conditioning vents.

When Trading Standards Officers pay a surprise visit, the reporter is given a bag stuffed with illegal products and told to run away from the store with them via a back entrance.

When she returns when the coast is clear, Aram admitted: 'If she'd have been caught, we'd have lost everything.'

Aram and his employees are seen selling the counterfeit cigarettes and tobacco powder at cut prices and they avoid putting them through the till so there is no record of the sale.

They also sell prescription-only medication in the same manner.

Aram admits he has no idea what the drugs he sells are for and he does not ask customers to show him a prescription in order to obtain them.

When a mother comes in asking if a prescription-only drug on sale is suitable for children, he said: 'We have antibiotics but maybe not for children, I'm not sure, you have to read if it's good for children or not.'

He later admits to the undercover Channel 5 employee: 'We have Duomox, Kattanol, Augemen, are they antibiotics? You tell me I don't know. Do you have to have a prescription? No, just sell them like that.'

Duomox is a amoxicillin-based drug - a penicillin antibiotic that fights bacteria with a long list of side effects including stomach cramps and passing blood. The other drugs are actually believed to be Augmentin, used to treat bacterial infections, and Ketonal - a drug for preventing and treating postoperative pain. The NHS website warns that taking extra doses of Augmentin, even one additional tablet, can prove harmful.

At the end of the show, the undercover reporter reveals her true identity and Paul Connolly arrives with a camera crew to confront Aram, who denies any wrongdoing.

He tells Paul, while physically shoving him out of the shop door: 'I only offered her part-time work. Get out, you're not welcome here, you have to leave.'

Paul said: 'He tried to deny it all but he struggled to do so because he knew exactly what he was doing was wrong.'

He added of Amran and the other benefits cheats he exposes on the show: 'They might not be hardened criminals but they don't have to be to rip off the benefits system. It's a crime that is anything but victimless because it's you, me and the decent, honest people on benefits who pick up the bill.'


12 Aug 2015

Benefit thieves told to pay back £183k or go to jail

We mentioned clairvoyant Timothy Abbott back in March. Now for an update.

He and his wife have belatedly been ordered to pay back over £183,000.

Psychic medium Timothy Abbott claimed he was so disabled he could barely walk but was busted after he was filmed by investigators working out in a Gym. The 54-year-old, who advertised himself as an "international spiritualist clairvoyant medium and tutor", toured the world offering his services. But he conned the taxpayer out of thousands of pounds in disability, council tax and housing benefits by claiming he was unfit for work.

A court heard Abbott claimed £35,496 in incapacity benefit and £22,848 in disability living allowance between 1998 and 2014. He pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in circumstances in June last year. Abbott also admitted conning HMRC out of £9,532 by failing to pay income tax or national insurance contributions. He was jailed for eight months when he was sentenced at Stafford Crown Court.

His wife Janette Abbott, 50, also falsely claimed £19,477 in disability allowance and £713 in incapacity benefit along with £1,000 in council tax benefit.

A court heard he failed to pay £37,000 worth of income support and conned Staffordshire County Council out of £44,000 in housing benefits.

Mrs Abbott admitted three counts of failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances, one count of making a false statement and one of falsely obtaining benefits by deception. But she escaped jail after being sentenced to eight months in prison, suspended for 18 months.

The scheming pair, from Stafford, have now been told to pay back a total of £183,450 after a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Stafford Crown Court last week.

Prosecutor Glyn Samuel said Mr Abbott had benefited to the tune of £86,524, including £9,532 owed to the taxman, and his realisable assets were in the same amount.

The court heard his wife's criminal benefit was £123,022 and her realisable assets were £96,926.

Recorder Professor Martin Wasik ordered Mr Abbott to forfeit £86,524 and his wife to forfeit £96,926.

The benefits cheats were each given three months to hand over the money or face two years in jail.

Tim Pole, defending Mrs Abbott, said the couple were in the process of selling their £200,000 detached home in Stafford to raise her share of the equity. Paul Hiatt, defending Mr Abbott, asked for a restraining order on the deeds to the house to be lifted so it could be sold.


11 Aug 2015

Benefits thief used dead brother's identity to claim £200k

A 79-year-old fraudster who used his dead brother and school friend's identities to claim more than £200,000 in benefits has been sentenced to 28 months in prison. (h/t Dave)

Carl Jones, from Wavertree, pleaded guilty at Liverpool Crown Court to making dishonest representations, theft and fraud to claim housing benefit, council tax and pension credit.

Recorder Simon Medlands QC said Jones was a "determined and sophisticated" criminal after he embezzled £201,771.54 over a 13-year period.

Mr Medlands said: "You are a dyed-in-the-wool fraudster and as greedy as you are dishonest."

Retired Jones, who has a criminal record dating back to 1952 with convictions for dishonesty and drug trafficking, was criticised by the judge as only "having himself to blame".

He used the identities of his brother Roy and school friend Brian Abram as well as a man called Charles Jones.

The court was told that the deception was fraudulent from the outset and dated back to 2002.

A passport in his brother's name was issued in July 2006 with a declaration that he had been living in Santander, Spain, for the previous 22 years to explain why there was no record of him in the UK.

Officers for the Department for Work and Pensions and Liverpool City Council became concerned that claims for pension credit, council tax and housing benefit were being made. Inquiries revealed Roy Jones died in 1967.

The two authorities paid a total of £74,120 to him over a six-year period.

Jones was arrested at his home in Wavertree, Liverpool, in February.

Recorder Simon Medlands said:
It's a tragedy to see a man of your age in the dock but in reality you only have yourself to blame. For 13 years or more you had been undertaking a highly sophisticated and persistent fraud. During that period you effectively stole from the public purse more than £200,000.

6 Aug 2015

Light sentence for £32k benefit thief

A benefits cheat has been forced to borrow more than £32,000 from family and friends to pay off money she fraudulently claimed, a court heard.

Tracy Mullins, from Bacup, conned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) out of the sum after failing to declare she was living with her partner over a six-year period. She enjoyed trips to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Tenerife.

At this week’s sentencing the mum-of-two was given an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £600 costs.

Burnley Crown Court heard that she has now repaid all the money after borrowing sums of between £2,000 and £10,000 each from family and friends.

Nick Flanaghan, prosecuting, told the court that she had been claiming income support from 2004 to 2012 on the basis of her illness, inability to work and having no partner in the house. But the court heard that she started living with her partner Steven Mullins from 2006 onwards and failed to inform the DWP.

An investigation later unearthed documents showing the two were living together in the same house, Mr Mullins had a television licence and had given the address to the Land Registry when buying other properties.

Mr Flanagan told the court that Tracy Mullins had owned the house since 2006 after paying £36,000 with no mortgage ‘despite having been in receipt of means-tested benefits for some time’.

The court heard that a bank account and passports were also investigated and revealed a £1,300 trip to Tenerife in 2012 and further trips to Jamaica in 2010 and the Dominican Republic in 2012. Mullins was interviewed twice by police following her arrest in January 2014 and initially denied the offences.

Mullins pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits including income support and one count of dishonestly failing to disclose information.

Keith Harrison, defending, said: “She has borrowed money from at least five family members or close associates so she is not escaping scot-free.”

Judge Andrew Woolman said: “All of the money has been repaid and there are not many benefit fraud cases where that can be said.”


5 Aug 2015

Runnymede gets round to a keys amnesty

An amnesty has been launched for council tenants illegally subletting their homes.

Runnymede Council is giving them two months to hand back the keys without being prosecuted.

The idea is to free up council homes to help those most in need.

The council thinks tenants are illegally renting out their properties, this crime is usually met with a fine and a prison sentence.

It currently costs an average of £350 a week to place a family in a B&B.

For each home surrendered, the council says it will save £18,000 a year.

Runnymede Borough Council’s Housing Committee Chairman, Cllr Hugh Meares, said:
We must ensure we are making the best use of our housing stock. Illegal subletting puts pressure on our housing waiting list therefore taking longer to re-house homeless families.

It currently costs the Council an average of £350 a week to place a family in bed and breakfast. Each home surrendered will save the council £18,000 a year so we have made the identification of illegal subletting one of our top priorities.
Runnymede Borough Council’s Tenancy Manager, Amanda Kendall, said:
Illegal subletting prevents homes from being made available to families in genuine need. If we identify subletting after the amnesty has ended we will not hesitate to prosecute those tenants for fraud. They could face a fine of £5,000 or a two year prison sentence and they may be required to pay to the Council any “profit” made on the illegal subletting. To avoid prosecution they should hand back the keys to Runnymede Borough Council during the amnesty period.