24k welfare cheats prosecuted
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Local Government and also in Legal
Government to 'help halt court actions' on home repossessions
Two welfare cheats have been prosecuted after swindling £24,056 in housing and council tax benefits out of Islington Council.
Spasenka Zivkovska, 44, formerly of Buckhurst House, Hilldrop Estate moved to Portsmouth in December 2010 without advising the council's benefit service.
As a result, £16,452.38 in housing benefit was overpaid. A routine visit by the council's benefits team to Buckhurst House revealed that she was no longer resident.
The council did not accept Zivkovska's excuse that she had tried to phone on several occasions to try to get the payments stopped. Council phone records showed no such calls.
Checks with Portsmouth City Council revealed that Zivkovska had claimed housing benefit from her new property on Havant Road from 31 January 2011 and tenancy agreements were provided showing her tenancy having commenced on 22 December 2010.
The crook was sentenced at Highbury Corner Magistrates' Court on February 5 to six weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and ordered to perform 200 hours of unpaid work, after she had previously pleaded guilty to one charge of benefit fraud.
In a separate case, Vanessa Vernon, 25, was sentenced February 7 to 260 hours of unpaid work after admitting fraudulently claiming £6,037.94 in housing benefit and £1,567.61 in council tax benefit.
Vernon had claimed the benefits at Assata Mews, St Pauls Road, from September 2009, initially on the basis that she was in receipt of Jobseeker's Allowance and later being supported by her father.
However, information received by the council’s investigators from a data matching exercise showed that Vernon was a full-time student at City University and in receipt of a student loan.
Further enquiries revealed that she had also worked for Christian Louboutin UK Ltd and had not declared the income from this employment in respect of her claim.
When interviewed, Vernon admitted to being a full-time student between February 2010 and February 2011. However, City University confirmed that she had attended since September 2009, with a break between December 2009 and February 2010. Vernon also admitted undeclared work with Christian Louboutin from November 2010 to March 2011.
The council’s investigators later found that Vernon had failed to disclose two bank accounts, examination of which showed that she had also worked for Kurt Geiger Ltd from 1 June 2010 to 30 October 2010, Elite Associates Europe Ltd for the month of August 2011 and Harrods from September 2011.
Mike Curtis, Islington Council's corporate director for finance and resources said: "Housing benefit is there to help those on low incomes - not fraudsters.
"Our anti-fraud measures are sophisticated and we are ever vigilant for attempts to swindle the council.
"Housing benefit fraud is crime. Our message to perpetrators is simple – ‘you will be caught'."