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Woman sentenced for fraudulently claiming benefits for relatives

|News, Fraud and economic crime

A woman who fraudulently claimed almost £95,000 in benefits for three of her relatives has been sentenced.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Saaba Mahmood, 36, of Gleneagles Road, Heald Green, Stockport, acted as an appointee for her aunt, her uncle and her mother who were claiming benefits.

As their appointee, she had the legal duty to disclose any change in circumstances that would impact upon their entitlement to the benefits claimed.

Her aunt was claiming Disability Living Allowance from January 2013 to September 2018 and Employment Support Allowance from February 2013 to October 2018.

Saaba Mahmood acted as her appointee from May 2013 and therefore both benefits were paid directly into her bank account.

Evidence came to light that her aunt was out of the country from January 2014 to October 2018 but Mahmood didn’t disclose this and continued to receive DLA and ESA payments on her behalf. The total overpayment was £62,460.52.

Her uncle claimed and received Disability Living Allowance from November 2010 to October 2018 and Employment Support Allowance from October 2010 and October 2018.

Mahmood became his appointee in July 2012 and therefore both benefits were, again, paid directly into her bank account.

Evidence came to light that he was out of the country for several months on a number of occasions during this period, yet Mahmood failed to report this and continued to receive both DLA and ESA on his behalf. The total  overpayment here was £32,074.92.

Mahmood became the appointee for her mother in July 2015. On 31 August 2018, she made a false claim that her mother was caring for another relative.

But her mother was already receiving  Employment Support Allowance on the basis that she had severe health problems, was housebound and needed constant support. So it was clear she was unable to care for another person.

In October 2018 Mahmood did report that her mother had stopped caring for the relative, but the claim had been fraudulent from the outset and she had received £323 that she was not entitled to.

On 3 March 2020, at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, she pleaded guilty to four counts of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self or expose another to loss and one count of Fraud by False Representation.

The total overpayment was £94,858.44, claimed over a period of just over four years.

On 20 August 2020 at Manchester Crown Court, she was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for 18 months. She must do 15 days of a rehabilitation activity and 150 hours of unpaid work in the community.

Senior Crown Prosecutor Justine McVitie of CPS Mersey-Cheshire’s Fraud Unit, said: “When she was interviewed by Department for Work and Pensions investigators, Saaba Mahmood said she was aware that her relatives had been out of the country for several months at a time but said she didn’t realise that she was supposed to report this.

“This was hardly credible. We have evidence of her filling in benefit forms for them at the time they were away and she knew they weren't living in the country at this time.

“Mahmood has no previous convictions yet her offending has now ruined her reputation and the trust of the family members she was supposed to be representing.

“She has stolen a large amount of money from a public purse that already has many demands on it. State  benefits are meant for some of the most vulnerable in society. To fraudulently claim them takes much needed money away from those most in need.”

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