Woman jailed for £25,000 benefit abuse
A WOMAN who took part in a benefit scam totalling almost £25,000 has been jailed for 18 weeks.
Rukhsana Dastagir, 43, of Torrington Court, admitted 12 counts of benefit fraud at various points stretching back to 2005.
In total she claimed just over £23,000 of housing benefits under false pretences and a further £1,000 of council tax.
Her brother Imran, 38, of Carstairs Avenue, admitted creating false documents to support her claim for housing benefit, starting in 2011, and was ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service.
The pair admitted the offences earlier this month and were sentenced at Swindon Magistrates’ Court this week.
The scam was carried out when Rukhsana was living with relatives.
When a person lives with family members they are not entitled to housing benefits, but she filled out forms to claim money and failed to disclose her sister and brother, who was not involved at this stage, owned the property.
During this time she collected £5,000 illegally and later moved to a property in William Street, owned solely by her sister, and got another £13,000.
Imran, who works as a taxi driver, became involved in 2011 when his sister moved back to Carstairs Avenue.
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.
At the first hearing, Vyvyan Thatcher, prosecuting, said: “This is not like the case you often see 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.”
After the pair were sentenced Coun Russell Holland (Con, St Margaret and South Marston,) cabinet member for finance, said: “It is extremely sad that a small number of people deliberately abuse the benefits system for their own personal gain.
“The benefits system exists to help those people who would like to work but cannot due to health problems, or those who are on low incomes. People who fraudulently claim benefits are effectively stealing from taxpayers and are undermining the financial integrity of the system.
“As this particular investigation shows, our investigators work hard to uncover all types of fraud. The message to fraudsters is clear: we will investigate and prosecute you, and you can end up in prison.
“Anyone who suspects a person of fraudulently claiming benefits can contact the council by using the confidential fraud hotline number, 01793 464690.”