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Nov 05 2012

Harrow Council wins case against benefit cheats

Benefits cheats who amassed a property empire in West Harrow by defrauding taxpayers out of £39,000 have been brought to justice thanks to Harrow Council’s dedicated fraud team.

Fraudsters Vipul Patel and Udita Patel, of Bowen Road Harrow, were convicted due to a joint investigation between Harrow Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The couple, who cheated the benefits system over a four year period, claimed £15,936.49 in housing and council tax benefits between October 2004 to January 2009. Vipul Patel also claimed an additional £23,068.15 in Income Support which he was not entitled to.

The fraud was detected by Harrow Council after it was discovered the pair failed to notify the council that Udita Patel had purchased 83 Vaughan Road in October 2004 for £190,000, 42a Vaughan Road in February 2005 for £178,000 & 133a Vaughan Road for £185,000 in August 2006 with deposits totaling £83,000.

Further enquiries by Harrow Council showed that all three of these properties had been rented to tenants whilst Vipul and Udita Patel claimed Housing Benefit to help pay their own rent.

The couple pleaded guilty to four counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances on September 20 2012 at Harrow Crown Court.

Vipul Patel was sentenced at the same court to nine months imprisonment suspended for two years yesterday (November 1). He was ordered to observe a curfew between the hours of 9pm to 6am for two months. Udita Patel was also handed six weeks imprisonment suspended sentence for 12 months, and she was ordered to observe a curfew for two weeks.

Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 are also underway to recover the money overpaid through assets including the 3 flats owned by Udita Patel. The hearing is due to take place at Harrow Crown Court in April.

Cllr Graham Henson, portfolio holder for performance, customer services and corporate services on Harrow Council, said: “We work hard to make sure that taxpayers’ money only goes to people in real need. Our officers have a number of tools in their armoury to spot fraudsters and I hope this case sends a clear warning that we will catch up with you. At a time when councils are facing huge cuts in their budgets and pulling out all the stops to protect services, we will not tolerate people taking public money they are not entitled to.”

Source: Harrow Council

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