No benefit from cheating in Woking

02 January 2014

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A benefit cheat living in Woking, who fraudulently claimed almost 25,000 in Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit, Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance, was prosecuted at Guildford Crown Court on 19 December 2013.

Mr Jamshaid Akhtar of Sheerwater, Woking, was found guilty of dishonestly making claims and was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months. Mr Jamshaid, who entered a not guilty plea, also has a 28-day electronic curfew between 9.30pm and 6am and has been disqualified from driving for six months.

False claim

Mr Akhtar first made a claim to Woking Borough Council for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit in June 2006 upon moving to Woking.

On 1 August 2007, Mr Akhtar inherited a house he had lived in with his late wife in Bradford. Despite this change in circumstance and being prompted on many separate occasions, Mr Akhtar failed to inform the Council.

When making a claim, a signed declaration is required, stating that the information given is correct and complete and that any change in circumstance which might affect the claim must be reported to the Council. Mr Akhtar fraudulently signed this declaration but failed to inform the Council of his change in circumstances.

Mr Akhtar also made a claim for Income Support by telephone on 13 March 2007, in which he claimed he did not own any property or land.

Mr Akhtar claimed benefits intermittently for the next three years, failing to declare ownership of his property in Bradford. In addition, on eight separate occasions from 2006 to 2010, the defendant was sent letters, which included a document setting out which changes in circumstances must be declared.

As a result of Mr Akhtar's fraudulent actions, he received a total of 15,924.08 in Housing Benefit and 4,468.33 in Council Tax Benefit. He also received the sum of 4,473.31 in Income Support and Job Seekers Allowance.

Cllr John Kingsbury, Woking Borough Council's Portfolio Holder for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Local Support, said: "This case sends a clear message to others that the Council will not hesitate to take action against those abusing the benefits system and that we will not stand for benefit fraud in Woking. It is unacceptable and makes a mockery of those honestly claiming benefits. The Council is committed to using its powers to crack down on this."

Following the guilty verdict on 19 December 2013, an application has been made under the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover the sums overpaid as a result of the fraud. This is due before the Court in March 2014.

Woking Borough Council worked jointly with The Department of Work and Pensions to bring this prosecution.

For further information, or to report benefit fraud in Woking, visit www.woking.gov.uk/benefitsfraud