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Sep 07 2013

Family fortune is exposed as taxpayer fraud in Harrow

harrow_council_logoAn 80 year old grandma and her granddaughter have been found guilty of benefit fraud amounting to £31,000 following an investigation by Harrow Council.

Maria Henry and Leonie Cousins, of Arundel Drive, falsely claimed benefit money paid into a joint bank account over 15 years by claiming to pay rent to a landlord, when she and her granddaughter had jointly owned the property since 1995 and later her granddaughter became the sole owner.

Leonie Cousins, 80, of Arundel Drive, claimed to be a single person living at her address and claimed that she paid her rent to a landlord via an agent.

The council became suspicious of Ms Cousins when the council’s education department received a school place application from Ms Cousins’ granddaughter, Maria Henry, for her child who was listed as living at the same address on the application form. In further correspondence, Maria Henry also stated she lived at the address. At that point, the council had no records of anyone else living at the address other than Ms Cousins.

A land registry search showed that Ms Henry had in fact been the owner of the property since 2002, which conflicted with what Ms Cousins stated on her benefit claim. The council tried unsuccessfully to trace the landlord or the agent.

Further investigations from Harrow Council revealed that both women had jointly owned the property from February 1995 and it was transferred into Ms Henry’s sole ownership in 2002. It also transpired that the bank account that Housing Benefit payments were being paid into was a joint account held by both women, meaning that they both benefited from the fraud.

The claim for benefit was reassessed to take account of the fact that Ms Cousins had been the joint owner of the property from 1995 to 2002 and that she had no rental liability from 2002 onwards. This meant that Housing Benefits had been overpaid by £31,070.49 between 1998 and 2010.

Maria Henry and Leonie Cousins were summoned to attend Willesden Magistrates Court on 9th July 2013 on three counts of fraud each. Leonie Cousins received four months custody suspended for 12 months, plus an £80 victim surcharge & £200 costs. Ms Henry will be sentenced by the crown court in connection with this offence and an associated Proceeds of Crime Act application to recover the overpaid benefit.

Leader of Harrow Council, and Portfolio Holder for Corporate Services, Cllr Thaya Idaikkadar, said: “The nerve of these benefit cheats is quite unbelievable. At a time when people are struggling to pay the rent, we have homeowners who are defrauding the public of £31,000 in housing benefits. Benefit cheats should know that Harrow Council will prosecute cases robustly and recover overpayments. We have a duty to protect benefits money for those genuine people who need it most.”

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2 comments

  1. derek miles

    WHO SAID CRIME DOESNT PAY??? THE HOUSE SHOULD BE SOLD AND £30.000 RETURNED TO THE COUNCIL BUT THAT WONT HAPPEN

  2. j p hobbs

    Yeah and it only took Harrow council 15 years that’s about par for the course . WAKE UP THERE YOU LOT !!!!!!! WHAT ARE WE PAYING YOU FOR .

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