Published 4 October 2012
Fraudsters who try to cheat the benefits system may not only have to pay back what they’ve stolen but could also have their assets seized.
Thats the warning from Ealing Council as a £99,000 benefit cheat was sentenced last week.
A financial investigation has been launched into Ms Shamin Akhtar of St Dunstans Avenue, Acton who was found guilty of 11 counts of fraudulently claiming almost £100,000 in benefits from Ealing Council and lying on an application for a £30,000 home ownership grant.
Ms Akhtar was also given a 12 month sentence, suspended for 21 months at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday 28 September, 2012, and ordered to perform 100 hours of Community Payback.
Although Ms Akhtar has paid back almost all of the £99,561 she falsely claimed in housing and council tax benefits from 1999 to 2009, the court ordered a financial investigation with a view to confiscating assets gained as a result of her criminal behaviour.
Ms Akhtar claimed housing and council tax benefit without declaring that she jointly owned a house in Chaucer Road Acton. The court heard that Ms Akhtar and her estranged husband re-mortgaged this property while she claimed these benefits.
The offences came to light after Ms Akhtar applied for a £30,000 Homebuyers grant in 2009 for council tenants to buy property on the open market. To be eligible applicants must not own any property. An eagle-eyed housing officer visiting the council property where Ms Akhtar claimed to live believed the home was unoccupied and an investigation was launched.
Councillor Yvonne Johnson, cabinet member for finance and performance said: Benefit fraud takes public money from those who need it most. This woman was lucky to escape prison but this case is a warning to other benefit cheats that courts can hit them where it hurts in the pocket.
Anyone with any information about a benefit cheat can report their suspicions anonymously via the councils 24-hour fraud hotline on 0800 328 6453 (free from landlines) or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Callers do not have to leave their name.