Crooked registrar helped gang milk benefits system
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Communities, Housing
Crooked registrar helped gang milk benefits system of £4million
A crooked registrar has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of issuing five false birth certificates to a gang of African fraudsters.
Former Newham registrar Azu Akpom created five fake certificates which were used by the ringleader of the gang who went on to create false identities for children to milk the benefits system. The gang stole at least £4 million from taxpayers over 20 years.
At Croydon Court this week, Akpom was found guilty of one charge of misconduct in public office and jailed for five years.
He was also found guilty of a further five counts of supplying articles for use in fraud for which he was jailed for a total of four years.
The sentences will run concurrently.
Newham Council's Cllr Unmesh Desai, Executive Member for Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour, said: "Akpom systematically abused his position and in-depth knowledge of the system. We employed him in good faith and he abused that trust. He betrayed us and many other people.
"Newham Council has a zero-tolerance approach to fraud. It cannot - and will not - be tolerated under any circumstances. There are rigorous systems in place to detect this sort of practice and they proved highly effective in this case."
Croydon Crown Court heard how the Nigerian-born father of three was ultimately trapped by a text message which, despite his denial, showed he knew the gang's chief conspirator, Ugandan-born Ruth Nabuguzi, 49.
Nabuguzi, of Church Road, Manor Park, used several false identifies to fraudulently claim benefit payments for herself, helping to build a complex consisting of luxury apartments, shops, restaurants and a hotel in her home city of Kampala, Uganda.
She also created false identities for people she claimed were her children or dependents that enabled them to enter the country illegally from Uganda and claim benefits illegally.
Last year, she was jailed for a total of 19 years for fraudulently claiming over £4 million in benefits.
Last week, Akpom's role in the scam was exposed as prosecutor Paul Raudnitz told the jury: 'This case revolves around the making of false identities for children and Azu Akpom as a registrar was at the centre of helping make those identities.
'While he denies any knowledge of knowing Ruth Nabuguzi there is an incriminating text message directly from his mobile phone to hers which was found by the investigating authorities.
'These certificates enabled the gang to make numerous false claims for both child benefits and child tax credits and other allowances.'
The court heard how Akpom started to work for Newham Council in 2004 before becoming a registrar in 2006 and a senior registrar a year later.
The evidence suggested that he was later introduced to Nabuguzi and her gang and began providing false birth certificates for use in their long-running conspiracy. Nabuguzi controlled the identites of the mothers named on the certficates.
Akpom had a duty to confirm all births had taken place that he had to register. Typically, registrars find an NHS number already assigned to the child when registering the birth as hospitals feed information into the system when a child is born. Instead, he simply manually filled out birth certificates, after seemingly being given names by the gang.
In May 2011, the General Registry Office (GRO), contacted Newham's Register Office. It was concerned about Akpom's registration of a set of twins, Catherine and Godfrey Lubeta, and also another single child Louise Kayaya. These births had actually never taken place.
An internal disciplinary investigation by was carried out by Newham Council and Akpom was sacked in 2011. A criminal investigation was also started.
When Nabuguzi and fellow gang members were arrested in September 2011 a 'kit bag for fraud' containing documents and birth certificates was found.
These included five issued by Akpom for false identities - all supposedly 'born' earlier that year.
A text from Akpom's phone to one of Nabuguzi's six mobiles read: The text message read: "…Pls don't feel bad just remember if anytin, u don't know anyone. 4 me I don't know anyone 2 so dey hv nothing. Txt me if u hear anything…."
Picture: Newham register office