A man who stole nearly £300,000 from Lambeth council was yesterday (18 March) jailed for six and half years.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said that Menelik Cowan was one of the driving forces behind a fraud involving six other people and two other councils – Kingston, and Barking and Dagenham – that netted more than £1 million.
He and the others – all benefit assessors – had denied fraud but were convicted by a jury earlier this year after a three-month trial at Southwark Crown Court.
The seven created false housing benefit claims over six years and sent the money they obtained through them to bank accounts they controlled.
Cowan diverted £293,147 over six years. Others accused received between three-and-a-half years and 18 months imprisonment.
The gang would identify properties, collect details for false claims and create appointments for fraudsters at the councils.
They also approved false claims and used their systems to ensure that council letters which might have revealed their fraud were not sent to the properties.
Money was sent into accounts controlled by money launderers who left the country before they could be charged, the CPS said. It will attempt to recover any outstanding assets.
Menelik Cowan (born 27/01/1981) pleaded guilty to one offence of fraud by abuse of position and one offence of possession of false identity documents with intent. He was convicted of five further offences of fraud by abuse of position.
Hugh Small (born 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. The value of his offending was £112,983. He was jailed for three and a half years.
Rahel Asfaha (born 20/05/1982) was convicted of eight offences of fraud by abuse of position worth £181,872 and was jailed for two-and-a-half years.
Alex Williams (born 01/08/1979) was convicted of one offence of fraud by abuse of position worth £240,345 and jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Cassandra Johnson (born 22/10/1980) was convicted of three offences of fraud by abuse of position worth £106,834 and jailed for 18 months.
Jessica Bartley (born 25/08/1983) was convicted of one offence of fraud by abuse of position worth £71,600 and sentenced to 18 months, suspended for 18 months, and given 200 hours unpaid work.
Natasha Francis (born 21/03/1980) was convicted of one offence of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £2,868 and was sentenced to an 18-month community order and 200 hours unpaid work.
Donna Francis (born 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 and received a 12-month community order.
Derrick Williams (born 02/02/1960) was convicted of two offences of entering into or being concerned in a money laundering arrangement worth £14,168.03 and sentenced to 15 months’ prison, suspended for 18 months.