A woman who falsely pocketed almost £30,000 of housing benefit has escaped a jail sentence. Munaza Aziz, 65, was instead handed a 12-month suspended sentence and warned she would face a spell behind bars if she got into trouble within the next two years. Aziz, of Burlington Street, Ashton, falsely claimed £29,090 in housing benefit from Tameside Council between December 1997 and November 2004. She collected benefits to assist with her rent and claimed that she was not related to the landlord of the property. In fact there was no liability for her to pay rent as the property was owned by her son, Omran Aziz.At Manchester Crown Court, Aziz admitted seven counts of false accounting and was handed a 12-month jail sentence, suspended for two years. Judge Watson said she had narrowly escaped a custodial sentence and it was only her age, poor health and previous good character that spared her. In mitigation, he also accepted that she had a poor grasp of English and was probably taken advantage of by an “unscrupulous individual” and in fact saw little of the money paid out by the council. Councillor Joe Kitchen, deputy leader, said: “It goes without saying that wherever possible we will ensure customers are given every assistance to pay their bills and receive any benefits they are entitled to. “But we will not hesitate to take action against those who refuse to pay money they owe the council or those committing fraud, because we have a duty to all the borough’s residents to provide high quality services at the lowest possible cost.” Tameside Council has already taken steps to recover the monies that have been overpaid. Anyone wishing to report someone they suspect of committing benefit fraud can do so on the National Fraud Hotline number which is 0800 328 6340.
I feel compelled to add that this is only the tip of the iceberg in relation to this type of scam. Certain ‘communities’ are known (ask any benefit fraud investigator off the record) to acquire many properties using this method. This is a simple version of how they do it;
Brother A and brother B buy two separate houses. Brother A then lets his house and in effect becomes a buy to let landlord. Brother B also lets his house in the same way. Brother A then moves into the house of brother B as a tenant and with the help of state benefits, pays rent, which then goes into the hands of brother B who uses is it to pay off his loan. Brother B then reciprocates and moves into the property of brother A and does likewise. Net result – a fraudulent property portfolio is amassed and because of the necessity to maintain ‘community relations’ few investigations or prosecutions in relation to this outrageous scam ever reach court.