Group convicted of housing benefit fraud

|News, Fraud and economic crime

Seven benefit assessors have been convicted of a housing benefit fraud worth £1,025,912 across three councils in London.

The assessors worked in the local authorities of Lambeth, Kingston and Barking and Dagenham creating false housing benefit claims and sending the funds to accounts they controlled.

The defendants would identify appropriate properties, collecting details for false claims and creating appointments for the fraudsters at the council.

They also approved false claims and used their systems to ensure council letters weren’t sent to the properties to reveal their fraud.

Money was sent into accounts controlled by money launderers who left the country before they could be charged.

One defendant processed claims amounting to over £240,000.

The defendants all denied fraud but were convicted by a jury after a three month trial at Southwark Crown Court.

Ben Reid, from the CPS, said: “These defendants were trusted with public money - but abused the systems to satisfy their own greed.

“Their criminal network was large and complex. The CPS played an integral role in the successful prosecution of this case. We were engaged with the investigators from an early stage and we are thankful that the hard work by all involved has paid off and justice has now been done.”

The defendants will be sentenced on 18 March 2019 at Southwark Crown Court.

Notes to editors

  • Ben Reid is a Specialist Prosecutor in the Specialist Fraud Division.
  • Menelik Cowan (DOB 27/01/1981) pleaded guilty to one offence of fraud by abuse of positon and one offence of possession of false identity documents with intent. He was then convicted of five further offences of fraud by abuse of position after trial. The value of his offending is £286,918.92.
  • Hugh Small (DOB 05/01/1979) pleaded guilty to one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement. He was then convicted of one further offence of fraud by abuse of position after trial. The value of his offending is £112,983.
  • Rahel Asfaha (DOB 20/05/1982) was convicted after trial of eight offences of fraud by abuse of position, worth £181,872.
  • Alex Williams (DOB 01/08/1979) was convicted after trial of one offence of fraud by abuse of position worth £240,345.
  • Cassandra Johnson (DOB 22/10/1980) was convicted after trial of three offences of fraud by abuse of position worth £106,834.
  • Jessica Bartley (DOB 25/08/1983) was convicted after trial of one offence of fraud by abuse of position worth £71,600.
  • Natasha Francis (DOB 21/03/1980) was convicted after trial of one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £2,868.
  • Donna Francis (DOB 04/01/1961) was convicted after trial of one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £8,323.43.
  • Derrick Williams (DOB 02/02/1960) was convicted after trial of two offences of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £14,168.03.

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