Truth and justice catches up with solicitor found guilty of housing fraud

A solicitor and former councillor Muhammad Harun was sentenced to serve 16 months in custody at Snaresbrook Crown Court today, Thursday 14 November 2019 after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud.

This followed a successful investigation by Tower Hamlets Council’s specialist housing fraud team.

Speaking as the sentence was given, His Honour Judge Sanders said the length of time over which the fraud was committed, the multiple applications for social housing and false declarations warranted a custodial sentence.

“You made hundreds of bids for social housing and were a beneficiary of accommodation you were not entitled to,” Judge Sanders said.

His sentence is in addition to the sum of £124,679.94 compensation paid to the council by Mr Harun for providing him and his family with temporary accommodation that could have been provided to a homeless family.

The council began its investigation into Mr Harun after a tip-off. Following an investigation, the Council brought charges relating to Mr Harun’s failure to carry out his legal duty to disclose relevant facts in relation to his application for housing including:

  • He had made an application for housing in January 2006 from his mother’s property at Solander Gardens, E1.
  • After being evicted from the property at Solander Gardens, he was housed in temporary accommodation from January 2006 to July 2010. He was then given a permanent three bedroom home at Grundy Street, E14.
  • On July 19 2007 he purchased a property at Lancaster Avenue in Barking, IG11.
  • After being housed in temporary accommodation from January 2006 to July 2010, he was given a permanent 3-bedroom home at Grundy Street, E14.
  • He purchased the property at Solander Gardens in August 2013.
  • At no time did he comply with his legal obligation to notify the council that he had purchased these properties, whilst also having a social housing property.

Mr Harun claimed that his family needed temporary housing because they were being evicted from the Solander Gardens property. Having been given temporary accommodation, a year later Mr Harun purchased a property at Lancaster Avenue in Barking whilst continuing to benefit from temporary accommodation. He had an ongoing duty to disclose his change of circumstances which he failed to do. 

Mr Harun would not have been considered for social housing from the moment he purchased the first property, if the council had been aware of the change in his circumstances. The temporary and social housing properties he benefited from would have been given to a genuinely homeless family.

Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets Council said: “This case sends a very clear message that whoever you are, you cannot expect to get away with fraud and depriving a homeless family of a safe and secure home. With one of the fastest growing populations in the country and 20,000 people on our housing waiting list, knowingly taking away such a precious resource is not only illegal but unforgiveable.

“Our housing fraud team have a number of resources and years of professional expertise at hand. The team carry out detailed investigations that often lead to charges and court action. Recovered homes are returned to the housing stock. I would encourage anyone who suspects housing fraud may be taking place to think about those homeless families denied a home, and to come forward in confidence.”

Mr Harun had earlier pleaded guilty to the two counts of fraud at Thames Magistrates Court on Thursday 26 September 2019. He had previously represented the Lansbury ward on Tower Hamlets Council following the local government elections in May 2018 and stood down as a councillor in December 2018 when the fraud investigation was first announced.

Anyone who has information that a council property may be illegally sublet or suspects housing fraud, can contact the dedicated housing fraud team on 0800 528 0294 or email: socialhousingfraud@towerhamlets.gov.uk

Posted on Thursday 14th November 2019