“GREEDY” WOMAN ESCAPES PRISON SENTENCE – “15 undeclared bank accounts” / WARNING ON DIET SCAMS
“GREEDY” WOMAN ESCAPES PRISON SENTENCE – “15 undeclared bank accounts”
A former Beckenham resident, described by a judge as “greedy” because she had substantial income and still defrauded Bromley council over a period of four years escaped a custodial sentence when she appeared at Croydon crown court.
The woman admitted three charges of defrauding Bromley council out of housing benefit and council tax benefits totalling £21,813 over the period April 2010 to June 2014.
The case was referred from Bromley police who had arrested her under the Protection from Eviction Act as she was trying to forcibly remove her sub-tenants and their belongings from Tonge Close.
It was found she had sublet the claim address to a family since October 2013 and charged them £700 per month.
The investigation involved obtaining credit reports, bank statements and a visit to the property with the landlords Affinity Sutton.
During the investigation, she was successfully evicted through the courts from Tonge Close by Affinity Sutton.
She had only declared two bank accounts in her claim to benefit, but the investigation highlighted she had 15 undeclared bank accounts with several cash and cheque credits totalling £375,000 between 2010 and July 2014 (not including her other welfare state benefits).
The bank accounts also had a regular pattern of spending thousands of pounds in designer stores and retail outlets before going on holiday to Barbados, Jamaica, Disney World and Egypt during the school holidays, particularly at Christmas and New Year.
The investigation also discovered that her partner was sentenced in September 2014 at the Old Bailey and imprisoned for five years for stealing £3.3 million fraudulently by abusing his position at work to fund a lifestyle of Rolex watches, fast cars and paying private school fees.
Witness statements were obtained from two private schools in Bromley where her two daughters had attended since 2012, paying termly fees of between £2.300 and £2.700, per child.
In passing sentence at Croydon crown court the judge made the following comments:
“You claimed housing benefit, council tax benefit and council tax support despite the fact that you were leading the life of a wealthy woman with over £400,000 going into your bank accounts.
“You associated with a criminal and he showered money on you. I can see how that could turn your head. “What I do not understand is why you still claimed benefits from the local authority: the local community.
“This money would have made no difference to you. “It was sheer greed on your part. “I have seen the way you treated your tenants. “This case deserves a prison sentence however given that you have three children, one of whom is only a baby and also the overpayment is not as large as it is in some cases I can therefore suspend the sentence of imprisonment.”
The Judge then went on to sentence her to four months imprisonment in relation to each count to run concurrently which has been suspended for a period of two years with two requirements that she does 60 hours of unpaid work and that she observes an electronically monitored curfew for a two month period from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m. The Judge also imposed a victim surcharge of £80.
Bromley council has also prosecuted two more benefit cheats for benefit fraud after they were identified by ‘Real Time Information’ from HMRC.
A Beckenham woman had failed to notify the council’s benefit section that she had a number of different jobs since April 2013 which resulted in her being overpaid £22,497 in housing benefit and council tax support between April 2013 and April 2015.
An Orpington man pleaded guilty to defrauding Bromley council out of housing and council benefits totalling £12,610 between August 2011 and November 2014. He had failed to notify Bromley council that had he two additional jobs to the one job he had declared to the council. (Source: Bromley council press releases)
WARNING ON DIET SCAMS
Soaring temperatures, sunny skies and impending beach holidays tend to get people considering the possibility of losing a few pounds.
Unfortunately, unscrupulous rogue traders are all too keen to help out – their targets, however, are not the pounds on the waistline, but the pounds in consumers’ wallets.
Diet scams are nothing new – in fact, they’ve been around for decades – but a new breed of scammer is using social media and internet pop-up ads in a bid to convince consumers that their product is the one to use to achieve a beautiful beach body.
Croydon council’s trading standards team has had a surge of complaints from residents who have been fleeced for hundreds of pounds buying slimming pills online, not realising that, rather than a free trial, they had actually agreed to an ongoing subscription.
Having seen an advert – on Facebook, for example, or as a pop-up on another site – for a free trial of slimming pills, the consumer clicks on the link and signs up to the free trial.
The ad will state that, while the pills are free, postage and packing has to be paid. Unsuspectingly, the consumer reveals their payment card details, thinking that they are paying only the relatively small cost of delivery.
The pills are delivered and the consumer finds that larger payments are being debited from their account. When they complain, they are presented with the sale terms and conditions (T and Cs), which state that the consumer has agreed to a subscription. This is often the first time the consumer is aware of the T and Cs.
Cancelling the subscription is far from straightforward and, by the time the process is complete, several months’ fees have been taken from their account, often totalling £200 to £300 or more.
Croydon’s cabinet member for communities, safety and justice Cllr Mark Watson warned that, while they may be entitled to a refund, consumers often find the process protracted.
He said: “Regulations are in place allowing online shoppers 14 days to cancel contracts, beginning the day after delivery.
“Problems arise, however, when the products are distributed through a European channel from a manufacturer in America or the Far East. This makes getting a refund more challenging.
“Consumers need to be aware that they really should not respond to pop-up ads, or ads on social media sites, with the details of their debit and credit cards.
“If they want to lose weight, they should speak to their doctor. Yes, they might need a prescription to assist, but that’ll be cheaper than the alleged ‘free trial’ offered by the scammer who’s keen to help them shed a great many more pounds, of the sterling variety.”
If you have been scammed, report it to Action Fraud at www.actionfraud.police.uk/ or by calling 0300 123 2040 to help stop it happening to others.
If the price of the goods is over £100 and the consumer uses a UK credit card for payment, the Consumer Credit Act 1974 may place equal liability with the seller on the credit card company for any breaches of contract (eg, faulty goods, non-delivery of items, poor services or misrepresentation).
UK consumers can use the advice and support of the UK European Consumer Centre if they have a dispute with a trader based in an EU country outside the UK. Call 0845 604 0503 between 10am and 3pm or visit www.ukecc.net
For pre-purchasing advice, visit the UK European Consumer Centre for Services’ website at www.ukecc-services.net (Source: Croydon council press release.)