Scales of Justice
Ripping off the taxpayer by fraudulently claiming money to help with housing costs is a popular career move in modern Britain and has been used by right-wing politicians to stigmatise benefit claimants. Here is a rundown of some of the worst culprits but which is the big swindle?
1 Model citizen?
Louise Glover, self-proclaimed “top international glamour, commercial and fitness model”, was so busy taking her clothes off for respected men’s magazines that she accidentally claimed £14,831 in benefits for a flat. She was sentenced to 240 hours community service but the judge spared her prison on the grounds that living in the flat had made her depressed, and in recognition of the vital service she provides to the country.
2 The lotto loser
When Edward Putman won £5 million on the lottery, he said to himself, “this isn’t enough”. Or one assumes he did, as he went on to fraudulently claim £13,000 in housing benefit. The hapless Putman effectively grassed himself up when he tried to buy his council house with £70,000 cash, and stunned council employees smelt a rat. Jailing Putman for nine months, the trial judge surmised: “It was greed on a scale which, frankly, defies belief.”
3 A down under blunder
Audacious Vanessa Turner took her benefit swindling to a whole new continent. The ex-police officer claimed nearly £38,000 in benefits for a Croydon flat while she sunned it up in Australia. All was going well until someone grassed, and back she plodded to face the courts. The council even got its money back. An interesting case of a crook being deported from Australia.
4 The biggest cheat
The biggest fiddle ever recorded was the £104,664 that Samina Ahmed managed to wheedle out of credulous Merton Council. Ahmed’s cunning scam involved a contrived tenancy, replete with fake documents and a non-existent landlord. The ruse allowed avaricious Ahmed to claim benefits by stating that she had to pay rent to a private landlord. And it worked – for 15 years. She eventually got eight months, which probably made it seem almost worth it.
5 The benefit cheat who wasn’t
It’s not just benefit fraudsters who make the news: when Basildon Council is involved, people who aren’t cheating do too. Disabled Mandy Barratt suffered a five-year ordeal at the whim of the Eric Pickles-endorsed local authority, which was jolly convinced that over £54,000 of fraud was afoot. However, the case ended in ignominy for the council when bosses finally admitted they had conjured a ‘whistleblower’ out of thin air. Despite admitting that its description of the evidence was wrong, the council denied any wrongdoing.
6 Risky business
Car hire business owner Fayaz Ahman had an extraordinary portfolio of valuable assets, but was ravenous for more. On top of his business, he owned an undisclosed £640,000 house and various bank accounts. Ahman fraudulently claimed £100,907 in housing benefit and got 18 months prison for his efforts. Hillingdon’s Corporate Fraud Team Manager was chuffed after securing the conviction. “We’re always pleased when another benefit cheat is caught – after all it’s your money they are stealing,” he added gleefully.
7 The house that wasn’t there
Antigone Harris of Leighton Buzzard committed perhaps the UK’s most brazen act of benefit fraud – for the clever thief foxed his local council with a claim for a property that didn’t exist. Harris even submitted photos and ground plans that he mocked up for his phantom home. Harris claimed over £50,000 before the council grew suspicious. But the scheme didn’t end there. When officials took a trip to meet Harris at his ‘property’ the thorough crook outsmarted them with a giant canvas on which was painted a realistic house frontage. All was going well as he charmed the investigators on the lawn, but an unfortunate gust of wind whipped his ‘house’ into the air and deposited it into a nearby canal. According to court records, a flustered Harris made a quip about cheap modern building methods as the handcuffs clicked shut.
Click here to reveal the answer
ANSWER: Number 7. As if any sane person would believe that a council could be that easily duped.