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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.

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