Lambeth council today (4 January) released figures for its campaign against housing fraud as evidence mounts of a housing crisis in the borough and campaigners accused it of too-tight “gatekeeping” of its duty to house the homeless.
The council said a 52 year-old woman from south Lambeth had been sentenced to two-and-a-half years’ jail after pleading guilty to five counts of fraud and admitting she had claimed over £96,000 in housing benefit for a property that she owned.
The case brought to £3.6m the amount that the council’s counter fraud team secured in 2015.
Ibironke Adeyemi, of Dovet Court in Stockwell, had also failed to declare that she owned and rented out a second property in Croydon and was in the process of claiming an extra £40,000 as a backdated payment of benefit when the council said her offences had been identified by a Lambeth assessment officer.
In 2006, the council said, Adeyemi had claimed benefit to help pay rent to a private landlord, when she actually owned the property she was claiming for. An investigation found that she had declared one bank account in one name when she held eight further bank accounts in other names and that she owned a second property which she rented out for £1,100 a month.
The council said the accounts that had not been declared indicated that Adeyemi had been working at times during the period of her claim and she had not disclosed this, as required by law.
She was sentenced at the Inner London Crown Court following an investigation led by Lambeth council fraud officers.
The council said it had begun work to recover the outstanding debt through the Proceeds of Crime Act as well as any gain made in the value of the property she owned in Croydon, which had been paid for in part through her crime.
Cllr Paul McGlone, council deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “Once more, the hard work of the council’s dedicated fraud team has brought a criminal to justice and we will continue to pursue benefit cheats and crooks. I hope this jail sentence sends a very clear warning to those who line their own pockets by stealing from people in genuine need because that’s exactly what benefit frauds do.”
Lambeth said that in 2015 its counter fraud team had:
- Recovered 93 properties that were subject to tenancy fraud at a value of £1.674 million
- Made recommendations for the recovery of 104 properties that were subject to tenancy fraud
- Prevented eight right-to-buy discounts valued at over £800,00
- Prosecuted 14 claimants for benefit fraud and secured sanctions against another 10 claimants (benefit fraud investigations were transferred to the central government’s Department for Work and Pensions in February last year)
- Prosecuted six tenants for tenancy fraud offences (four in relation to subletting and two for right to buy fraud)
- Identified £662,000 in fraudulent benefit overpayments
- Secured compensation payments in relation to three cases under proceeds of crime legislation exceeding £430,000
- Secured compensation of £75,000 in relation to a tenancy fraud prosecution.