Brother and sister face jail for fraud
A BROTHER and sister are facing jail after admitting taking part in a benefit scam worth almost £25,000.
Rukhsana Dastagir, 43, of Torrington Court, admitted 12 counts of benefit fraud at various points stretching back to 2005.
In total just over £23,000 of housing benefits was claimed under false pretences and a further £1,000 of council tax was claimed.
Her brother Imran, 38, of Carstairs Avenue, admitted to creating false documents to support her claim for housing benefit starting in 2011.
They were not sentenced yesterday but magistrates chairman Ruth Fitzsimmons said because of the amounts involved it was likely they would both be sent to jail later this month.
The scam revolved around a time when Rukhsana was living in properties owned by relations. If a person is living with family members then they are not entitled to housing benefits.
However, starting in 2005 when Rukhsana was living with her brother, who was not involved at this stage, she completed claim forms for housing benefit and council tax benefit and failed to disclose that her brother and sister owned the property.
In12 months she received almost £5,000 to which she was not entitled.
She later moved to a property in William Street owned by her sister, who was also not involved in the scam, and continued the scam claiming another £13,000.
Imran, who works as a taxi driver, became involved when Rukhsana moved back to his address in Carstairs Avenue in 2011 and once again made a fraudulent claim.
Council officers became suspicious because the pair shared the same surname.
Rukhsana claimed they were not related and said it was just a coincidence, while Imran produced a false tenancy agreement and provided a false address.
At one point he even produced a fake eviction notice to make the ruse seem more genuine.
Following an anonymous referral to the council’s fraud team the pair were interviewed by an investigator.
Yesterday, at Swindon Magistrates’ Court, prosecutor Vyvyan Thatcher said: “This is not like the case you often see of where something starts off lawful and later becomes fraudulent.
“This was fraudulent from the outset and very serious when you consider the length of time and amounts involved.”
The pair will appear back at Swindon Magistrates Court on August 26 when they will be sentenced.
Following the hearing, a council spokesman said: “This case is the result of two years’ work. Benefit cheats should have no doubt we will investigate thoroughly if we suspect that fraud is taking place, or if people report their suspicions to us.
“Those who obtain benefits by fraud are stealing from everyone, not least from people who are in genuine need of the money.”
If anyone has information related to benefit scams, the Fraud Team can be contacted on 01793 464690.
There is a 24-hour answerphone. Referrals can also be made at benefitfraud @swindon.gov.uk and all calls are treated in the strictest confidence.