Court: Havering Council benefits worker and mum - in benefits scam

A Havering Council benefits advisor and his mother were sentenced in court - for falsely claiming housing and council tax benefits.

Call centre worker Manjit Singh Cheema, 23, and his mother Balbir Kaur, 46, of Collier Row Road, were sentenced at Basildon Crown Court after each admitting fraud by abuse of position.

After claiming benefits as a single parent, Kaur moved to her current home in August 2009 with her two youngest children.

An anonymous tip-off led to a council investigation in 2011.

It was found that Cheema jointly owned the home Kaur was living in with another man, who she had given as her landlord, failing to notify the council of the family connection.

Cheema was also living at the property with his mother and siblings.

During the investigation officers looked into Cheema’s bank account.

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They found a deposit of �60,000 had been paid on the �210,000 house which was described in the mortgage agreement as a gift from family.

The monthly payments were also taken from Cheema’s account.

He had joined the council in July 2009 and his responsibilities included responding to housing and council tax benefit queries - both of which he and Kaur were fraudulently claiming from the council itself.

He had given an alternate address when joining the council and all housing and council tax benefit claims were made by his mother.

However, a forensic examination of the forms supplied by Kaur in relation to her fraudulent claims showed it was Cheema who had filled them in.

Mother and son were arrested in November 2011.

They had claimed almost �27,000 in housing benefit and more than �2,500 in council tax benefit.

The pair were sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.

The council has pledged to pursue both parties for the return of the debt.

Sentencing them on Wednesday of last week, His Honour Judge Graham, said:

“This is serious, not only as it is a fraud of public funds, but as it makes the situation for genuine claimants more difficult.”

He singled out Cheema in his summing up as he was working for the very council he was defrauding, dealing with the same claim forms he filled in as part of the fraud.

Cllr Roger Ramsey, cabinet member for value, said: “They were acting as if they wanted to help the poorest people in our society, when really the fraud meant they were stealing from their pockets.

“Our benefits system is meant for the most vulnerable members of our community so anyone taking advantage should be well aware that we will do our utmost to find you, take you to court and get our money back.”