March 14 2014 Latest news:
Jane Ball, News Editor
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
An escort agency “manager” who received more than £400,000 in cash through several bank accounts - while claiming benefits - has been ordered to pay back some of her “criminal” earnings to the public purse.
Sally-Ann Beresford, of Crow Lane, Romford, defrauded more than £37,300 from Havering Council and the government by claiming she had no income, Havering Council has said.
The 49-year-old claimed housing and council tax benefit but did not disclose her landlord was her son and also failed to declare she owned the house next door.
Beresford’s fraudulent claims began to unravel after police discovered £27,500 cash in a safety deposit box at Selfridges, London. Investigators then found around £400,000 went through her numerous bank accounts between 2005 and 2011.
She claimed the money was legitimate, at a two-day hearing at Chelmsford Crown Court last week, as her ex-partner ran an escort agency and transferred money to keep it away from his ex-wife.
However, on one application to open a bank account, Beresford said she was a manager of an escort agency.
Both she and her ex-partner, David Morton, strenuously denied the escort agency had anything to do with prostitution.
But Recorder Adrian Williamson QC did not believe them.
He said: “This evidence was self-serving and concocted to avoid these proceedings.
“These were very substantial sums which afforded a very substantial lifestyle.”
Bereford’s lifestyle was found by the court to be worth more than £366,700.
She has now been ordered to pay back more than £180,000 - the value of the home she owns - after the judge ruled the cash from her bank accounts was “proceeds of crime”. Havering Council will receive £67,000.
Beresford was ordered to pay back more than she defrauded because she was deemed to have led a “criminal lifestyle”, Havering Council said.
In December 2011 she pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud and was sentenced to 12 months in prison for each to run concurrently, suspended for 18 months. She also had to do 200 hours of unpaid work in the community.