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23 Aug 2017

Council officials accused of housing benefit frauds of over £1m

A group of housing benefit assessors fraudulently claimed more than £1million using false names, a court heard.

The council workers then put the money into bank accounts set up with fake passports, it was alleged.

The seven assessors worked for councils across London including Kingston, Lambeth and Barking & Dagenham.

Rehel Asfaha, 35, Jessica Bartley, 33, Menelik Cowan, 36, Natasha Francis, 37, Cassandra Johnson, 36, Hugh Junior Small, 38, Alexandra Williams, 38, all appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court.

They all face charges of fraud by abuse of position while working at the different councils from 2006 to 2016.

Prosecutor Carley Loftus said: 'The allegations charged relate to a housing benefit fraud. A number of the people are appearing in court today are housing benefit assessors who worked for Kingston, Lambeth and Barking and Dagenham authorities. They have put in false claims using false identities and these benefits are paid into other people's accounts which are set up using false identities. The housing benefit taken in this case, the total exceeds £1 million that was defrauded. It includes an abuse of position of trust.

Asfaha, is charged with two counts of fraud by abuse of position while working firstly at Lambeth Council, where she pocketed £82,331, and then Barking & Dagenham council, where she allegedly conned the authority out of £182,907. She also faces two charges of money laundering by placing the some of the cash into different bank accounts. Finally she is charged with possession of fake identity documents.

Bartley of Stockwell, is accused of fraud by abuse of position while working for Lambeth Council, pocketing £71,600. She also faces a charge of money laundering £51,155 of the cash into a bank count on behalf of another, and another charge of possession of fake identity documents.

Cowan, from Enfield, is also charged with fraud by false position while working for Lambeth Council, taking £298,469. He also faces a charge of possession of identity documents and of laundering £150,759.92 of the money pocketed.

Francis, of Walworth, south London, is charged with fraud by abuse of position while working for Lambeth council and possession of fake identification documents.

Johnson, 36, of Brixton, also charged with fraud by abuse of position while working for Lambeth pocketing £179,078. She is also charged with of possession of identity documents and controlling criminal property namely £57,514 in housing benefit.

Small, of Fulham, faces a charge fraud by abuse of position while working for Kingston Council and is charged with possession of fake identity documents and controlling criminal property namely money.

Williams, of Brixton, is charged with fraud by abuse of position while working for Baking and Dagenham Council, taking £240,345, from the authority. He is also charged with possession of fake identity documents and controlling criminal property, namely the money from the frauds.

Also appearing at the same court were Donna Francis, 56, of Brixton, Samuel Hammond, 39, of Dagenham, Mgeini Khanye, 35, of Canning Town, Kyeshia Stratchan, 27, of Hackney, and Derek Williams, 57, of Brixton.

They all face charges of controlling criminal property namely the money from the frauds, between June 2009 and October 2016.

Referring to all 12 defendants, Ms Lofus said: 'The crown would say the powers of sentencing are insufficient in this court and I would ask them to be committed to the crown court.'

Magistrates chairman Victoria Readman declined jurisdiction and the case was sent to the Crown Court for a preliminary hearing next month.

All 12 defendants were granted unconditional bail to appear at Southwark Crown Court on September 19.

Source with pictures

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