Thursday, 20 March 2014

Notorious Benefit Fraudster Back In The Dock For £194K Scam

Now You See Me

A notorious housing benefit cheat featured on BBC's 'Saints & Scroungers' after a £90,000 scam was sentenced today for his role in a £194,000 crisis loan swindle.

Jobless Emmanuel Ikem, 29, (pictured) of South Norwood Hill, Upper Norwood was involved with his brother Peter Ikem,31, in a fraud, which saw a total of 228 bogus applications made for taxpayers money to cover deposits and the first month's rent for multiple prospective tenants.

However, Emmanuel was not sent back to prison after the Recorder of Croydon Warwick McKinnon ruled that it would be "quite unjust", and Peter, who had a larger role in the scam, received a two year sentence. 

Both pleaded guilty at Croydon Crown Court to conspiring to defraud the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions between March 1, 2011 and November 12, 2012.

A third defendant, Steven Coote ,38, pleaded guilty to one count of fraud in relation to a crisis loan application on November 30, 2011 and was fined £750, with a £75 victim surcharge.

Emmanuel Ikem received two years imprisonment at the same court in October, 2012 for a five-year fraud, during which he created thirteen fictitious identities, forged birth certificates, tenancy agreements, utility bills and other documents.

He also had a sideline in insurance fraud, pocketing another £8,000 in payouts for non-existent injuries, but was exposed when his unsuspecting parents reported all the suspicious correspondence arriving at the family home.

Ikem made claims on properties he controlled, were derelict or occupied by an unsuspecting resident.

"You have served a sentence of two years and today's offences go back to before you were sentenced and it would be quite unjust to send you to prison," the judge told him, passing sentence of six months imprisonment, suspended for one year.

Now You Don't
The court heard the multiple bogus applications were linked to a series of telephone numbers used by the brothers and fictitious landlords they created.

Interest-free crisis loans are available to legitimate claimants to cover housing costs and are repaid from deductions to future benefits.

Prosecutor Mr. Stephen Hopper told the court: "They provided telephone numbers and fake landlord identities to others and took a cut of the loan.

"They would also make the phone calls on behalf of the applicants who were not as confident. Coote was one of the applicants."

Typically  a successful crisis loan application netted between £750 and £1,000 and Coote received £900 for his bogus claim, with the brothers claiming they took a one-third cut from all successful applications.

The court heard Peter Ikem, of Hawthorne Avenue, Thornton Heath was the more active of the brothers in the plot, which funded his "long-standing" cocaine use, and claims totalling £164,000 are attributed to him and £43,000 to Emmanuel.

Department of work and Pensions (DWP) investigators carried out a surveillance operation and watched as the brothers drove the applicants to their Jobcentre interviews and waited outside, sometimes posing as the new landlord during telephone checks.

However the DWP became suspicious when multiple applications were linked to the same phone numbers and a fictitious story of becoming homeless after a fall-out with a non-existent aunt was used by applicants again and again.

"This was a deliberate, targeted fraud on the social security system, which is vulnerable to deliberate fraud of the character here," Judge McKinnon told the brothers.

"This was a carefully planned, sophisticated fraud. This was deliberate and over a significant period of time and we are dealing with substantial sums of money."

He told sobbing Emmanuel, who broke down in tears after seeing his brother jailed: "I was impressed by your letter. Just make sure you keep on the right road."

There will be no Proceeds of Crime Act proceedings because the loans are repaid from deductions to future benefits received by the applicants.

The brothers were ordered to each pay a victim surcharge of £100.

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