Resident makes false claims about being homeless
Published Tuesday, 8 August 2017
A Beckenham resident narrowly escaped prison for housing fraud having changed her plea to guilty shortly before her trial was due to begin at Croydon Crown Court on 17 July.
The fraud was brought to the attention of the council anonymously through its Fraud App which was introduced as a simple way to report concerns.
This particular investigation into alleged housing fraud resulted in the first successful prosecution of a local resident for not residing in temporary accommodation provided for them having claimed to be homeless.
Miss Karis Taylor had been placed in temporary accommodation by Bromley Council in July 2014 following her eviction from her home in Beckenham. At the end of March 2015, Miss Taylor was placed in alternative accommodation in Peckham.
Following an anonymous allegation made on the council’s Fraud App on 31 March 2016 which alleged Miss Taylor was renting privately with her partner in the Beckenham area using a former name, an investigation was opened by the council’s Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud section. It was established that the allegation was correct and Miss Taylor had been residing in a luxury flat in Croydon Road between April 2015 and April 2016.
Miss Taylor was interviewed under caution by council investigators on 1 September 2016 when she denied living with her partner in Beckenham but said she had only signed the Tenancy Agreement to get a key fob so that she could stay there during the day. Miss Taylor was prosecuted under the Fraud Act 2006 for failing to notify the authority that she was not residing in her temporary accommodation in breach of her agreement. The cost to the council for the accommodation whilst she was living in Beckenham was £11,019.35.
Miss Taylor pleaded not guilty at an earlier hearing at Bromley Magistrates Court on 9 November 2016, and subsequently at Croydon Crown Court on 7 December 2016 with a trial date set for 17 April 2017.
Having maintained her ‘not guilty’ plea, Miss Taylor changed her mind shortly before the trial was due to commence and was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 150 hours unpaid work. She will also have to pay a £140 Victim Surcharge to the Court. No prosecution costs were awarded. Miss Taylor will have to repay the £11,019.35 plus other rent arrears accrued at her previous addresses.
The Chairman of the Council’s Audit Sub-Committee, Cllr Neil Reddin said: “We welcome this result as it sends out a clear message that fraud committed by cheats will not be tolerated. This authority has a zero tolerance to fraud. Those who claim for support they are not entitled to are committing fraud that represents a financial loss to Bromley Council. It is a waste of public funds that are meant for those in genuine need.”
This case was identified through the Bromley Fraud Reporter App and resulted in a successful prosecution. This was introduced in July 2015 as an additional method to quickly and efficiently report fraud against the council. The App is available on App Store and Google Play for free download for Apple and Android devices.
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