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Benefit cheat gets suspended jail sentence for £14,000 fraud

A woman who worked as a council benefit claims assessor has been found guilty of dishonestly claiming almost £14,000 in housing and council tax benefits and handed a 12-week suspended jail sentence.

Jahanara Begum, aged 32, formerly of Princes Road, Kingston, had denied three charges of dishonestly making false statements or representations with a view to obtaining housing benefit when she appeared before Wimbledon Magistrates last month.

The court heard previously that Begum had claimed housing benefit from May 2009 to June 2010 on the basis of being a lone parent on a low income and had provided pay slips. However, investigations revealed that she had failed to tell Kingston Council about income from her company Jahanara Consulting Limited, of which she was the sole director.

Begum, who lives in Cheshire now, had worked as a temporary Benefits Assessment Officer at Richmond Council and been paid more than £50,000 through her company between May 2009 and June 2010.

When interviewed by fraud investigators she said that the information she had supplied was correct and that she did not have any other income that she had not told the council about. When asked about the payments to her company, Begum told investigators that she did not think that she was doing anything wrong.

An appeal by Begum against Kingston Council’s decision that she had been overpaid £13,979.32 in housing and council tax benefits was dismissed by an independent tribunal.

Sentencing Begum last week, magistrates said that her offences were serious and that a considerable amount of money was involved. Begum was sentenced to 12 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months, and required to undertake 150 hours’ unpaid work. She was ordered to pay £500 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Councillor Rowena Bass, chair of Kingston Council’s Audit Committee, said:

“This was someone who knew the system and was aware of what she was doing. Benefits are for people in need and we will take action against anyone who steals from the public purse.”

 

Report fraud

To report fraud in Kingston telephone the Internal Audit and Investigation Service on 020 8547 5700 or email [email protected].