Benefit cheats who swindled Islington Council will have to pay back £24,000
By poppy_smith | Monday, February 25, 2013, 19:19
Two benefit cheats who swindled Islington Council out of a total of £24,056 will have to pay the money back after being caught out by fraud investigators.
Spasenka Zivkovska, 44, formerly of 47 Buckhurst House, Hilldrop Estate, N7, was sentenced at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on Tuesday 5 February 2013 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.
Zivkovska had moved to 101 Havant Road, Portsmouth, in December 2010 without advising Islington Council's Benefit Service. As a result, £16,452.38 in Housing Benefit was overpaid. A routine visit by Islington Council's benefits team to Buckhurst House revealed that she was no longer resident.
At interview, Islington Council did not accept that Ms Zivkovska had "phoned on several occasions" to try to get the benefits payments stopped. Islington Council housing benefit team record calls they receive. None had been received from her.
Checks with Portsmouth City Council revealed that Zivkovska had claimed Housing Benefit from 101 Havant Road from 31 January 2011 and tenancy agreements were provided showing her tenancy having commenced on 22 December 2010.
Zivkovska was charged with one count of failing to give prompt notification of a change to her circumstances and ordered by the court to make a £150 contribution towards prosecution costs.
In a separate case, Vanessa Vernon, 25, was sentenced at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court on Thursday 7 February 2013 to 260 hours of unpaid work after admitting fraudulently claiming Housing and Council Tax Benefits. She was also ordered to pay £200 in costs.
Vernon had claimed Housing and Council Tax benefits at 6 Assata Mews, St Pauls Road, N1, from September 2009, initially on the basis that she was in receipt of Jobseekers' Allowance and later being supported by her father.
Information received by Islington Council's Benefit 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 benefit claim.
When interviewed, Vernon admitted to have been 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 Investigation Officers 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.
Vernon, pleaded guilty to one count of dishonestly making a false statement and five counts of dishonestly failing to advise changes to her circumstances. She must repay £6,037.94 in Housing Benefit and £1,567.61 in Council Tax benefit.
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'."
In both cases, the fraudsters were caught out by a data matching exercise as part of the National Fraud Initiative. In it, benefit data is matched with with data held by various other public organisations including Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs, Government departments, local authority payroll and student awards.