Tower Hamlets Town Hall
A man who fraudulently tried to take over the council tenancy of a resident who had passed away by pretending to be his nephew has been given a two year suspended prison sentence, following a successful operation led by Tower Hamlets Council’s housing fraud team.
Bethnal Green resident Mr Shafiqur Rahman was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court on Thursday 1 August. He also received 150 hours of unpaid work, a four month curfew order, and will have to pay the council’s £6000 legal costs.
The fraud was triggered by the death of a Tower Hamlets Homes tenant in February 2016. Mr Rahman then submitted an application in June 2016 to take over the tenancy on the basis that he was a nephew of the resident, and had been living with him at the one bedroom council flat on Headlam Street, Whitechapel.
In support of his application, Mr. Rahman submitted a series of documents some back-dated to 2014, to show that he had been living at the property for a number of years. The extensive list of ‘proof of address’ documents included gas and electricity bills, a council tax bill, bank statements, a car insurance certificate, a HM Customs & Revenue letter, birth certificates, an accountant’s letter, as well as applications for housing benefit, free school meals and council tax rebate.
The validity of some of the documents raised suspicions and led to the application being thoroughly investigated by the council’s specialist housing fraud team. Evidence obtained by officers from the utility, insurance and accountancy companies, alongside the council’s own database records confirmed that a number of the documents submitted were fabricated.
In addition, one of the deceased tenant’s main care workers made a statement that he had seen no family members at the home, except for a relative who would visit twice a year. He added that the former tenant had told him that most of his family lived in Scotland.
A friend and neighbour also made a statement saying he had supported the former tenant after his wife had passed away. He confirmed that the tenant lived alone and had been cared for by social services. He did not know of Mr Rahman, and confirmed that his friend had never mentioned Mr Rahman in any of their conversations.
Following the compelling evidence against him, Mr Rahman pleaded guilty to two counts of Fraud at Snaresbrook Crown Court on July 4 2019.
The Mayor of Tower Hamlets John Biggs said:
“Far from being a victimless crime, housing fraud is a selfish act and results in much needed homes being denied to those who are in genuine need of housing. Our housing fraud team works hard to identify suspicious activity, and as a council we will always seek to take strong action against those found to be acting illegally.”
Cllr. Sirajul Islam, Deputy Mayor of Tower Hamlets and Cabinet Member for Housing said:
“Many congratulations to all those who worked on what I know was a lengthy and complex investigation. With over 20,000 people on our housing list, any property which is recovered is crucial. As a council we will take action to ensure that council homes go to those most in need in the borough.’’
In this case the cost to the council of housing a family in alternative temporary accommodation rather than them being fairly allocated this property from the outset will have been more than £42,000.
Anyone who has information that a council property may be illegally sublet or involved in housing fraud can contact the dedicated housing fraud team on 0800 528 0294 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted on Tuesday 13th August 2019