Court sentences woman for mortgage and benefit fraud

A woman who falsifyed a mortgage application and dishonestly claimed more than £15,000 in benefits and has been prosecuted, after an investigation by Aylesbury Vale District Council.

Shaheen Ilyas, 45, had been claiming benefits for several years on the basis that she was a single parent with six children. After a three-day trial, a jury found her guilty of failing to notify AVDC of a change of circumstance and dishonestly obtaining housing and council tax benefits.

The investigation began in April 2003 when Ilyas applied to buy her council house. Fraud officers at AVDC received a tip-off that Ilyas already owned another house in Aylesbury, which was later confirmed by the Land Registry Office.

Under interview Ilyas admitted to owning a property and that there was a mortgage on it in her name. Ilyas said that her relatives lived in the house and the property and mortgage were obtained to help them through their financial difficulties.

An investigation by the council confirmed that there was equity in the property that exceeded £8,000. As this was over the limit for claiming benefit, it meant that Ilyas was not entitled to housing or council tax benefit. Ilyas wrongfully claimed housing benefits of £13,256.97 and council tax benefit of £1,744.79 between February 2002 and January 2003, totalling £15,001.76.

The mortgage application form revealed that Ilyas had declared that she was in full-time work earning between £37,000 and £41,000 per year.

The tax reference number used to support this was found to be false. Ilyas stated in a second interview that she had not done the work declared on the mortgage application. The application was therefore fraudulent.

At the court hearing on 22 February, Ilyas said that she was unaware that the property was in her name and denied having a job whilst being paid benefits. Ilyas claimed that she was told to sign a form by her ex-husband but did not know what it was for. The prosecution stated that she had been claiming different benefits for a number of years and had opened bank accounts for the mortgage to be paid from so it was inconceivable that she did not know what was going on.

Councillor Margaret Morgan-Owen, cabinet member for resources at AVDC, says: “We investigate every suspicious benefit claim and hope this sentence will send out a strong message that benefit fraud will not be tolerated.”