A brazen scammer has cheated the child benefit and tax credit scheme out of more than £1.7million with claims for 188 non-existent children.
Ali Bana Mohamed used relatives and others to help with the scam, which saw bogus claims submitted under about 70 different names. They got away with the brazen plan until HMRC raised suspicions.
The IRS found that the same two phone numbers were repeatedly calling the tax credit application call center in relation to what appeared to be unrelated claims, and a special DWP investigation was launched.
Today, six of the scammers were sentenced to prison terms totaling more than 13 years, one of them on probation.
Judge Brian Cummings QC commended investigating DWP officers for “their skill and determination in their investigations”.
Thought leader Ali Bana Mohamed, 40, of Epping Street, Hulme, Manchester, was sentenced to three and a half years in prison in January after admitting to 29 counts of fraud.
He was already serving 16 years on drug and immigration charges, and the judge who ordered a rolling sentence said it would have been longer had it not been for his existing sentence.
Liverpool Crown Court heard the defendants lived in Manchester, Birmingham and London.
They are all Somalis but come from a specific area with their own Bravenese dialect and were assisted by the country’s only Bravenese interpreter.
Prosecutor Kevin Slack told the court that the defendants were in the dock as part of Operation Paratrooper, which involved an investigation by the DWP’s Serious and Organized Crime Division.
“The individual conspiracies in which each of these six defendants participated formed smaller parts of a massive fraud perpetrated by Ali Bana Mohamed.
“His scam targeted the UK tax credit and child benefit scheme. A special investigation led to the finding that Ali Bana Mohamed was entitled to child support and tax credits for about 70 different adult names over a nine-year period between April 2007 and July 2016.
Mr Slack explained that in some cases adults have been stripped of their identities.
Four of the defendants allowed fraudulent claims to be made on their behalf and actively participated in these scams, receiving varying amounts of money.
All of Ali Bana Mohamed’s fraudulent claims were made on the basis that the adult had cared for named children and was entitled to child support and tax credits.
But Mr Slack said these children are all “fictitious”.
“In all, 188 different children who were entirely fictional were claimed for these claims. A total of £1,766,594.87 was paid out in relation to these fraudulent claims, including £345,642.80 in child benefit payments and £1,420,952.07 in tax credits.”
Mr Slack said: “Ali Bana Mohamed had a relatively simple but effective means of storing all the information he needed to make these false claims.
“When his home on Epping Street, Moss Side, Manchester was searched in April 2016, immigration officers found several handwritten notebooks hidden under clothing in the back of a wardrobe. “
A handwriting expert concluded that the handwriting in these notebooks was that of Ali Bana Mohamed.
Mr Slack said the notebooks “typically listed the identities used to pursue claims, the names and dates of birth of the fictional children, the bank account and sort code of the bank to which the payments were made, and details of the phone’s passwords, used when telephoning in connection with these claims.
“Ali Bana Mohamed had several bank accounts either in his own name or in the name of a pseudonym of his, into which part of the proceeds from the scams were deposited. He also had payments transferred to accounts on behalf of others, including accounts held on behalf of the defendants.”
Two of the defendants, Mohammed Omar and Mohamoud Baana, denied their role and during their trial the jury learned that the suspicious phone numbers obtained by HRMC belonged to Ali Bana Mohamed, leading to investigations.
“He had several bank accounts in his own name or a pseudonym of his, into which a portion of the proceeds from the scams were deposited. He also had payments transferred to accounts on behalf of others, including accounts held on behalf of the defendants.
“He was the organizer of the scams. In many cases he could act alone, for example when he had a claim deposited in one of his own bank accounts. However, in other cases he required the help of others and the other defendants agreed to prosecute certain fraud cases with him,” Mr Slack said.
Mohamed Maye Omar’s role was to obtain birth certificates that could be used by Ali Bana Mohamed for fraud.
Mohamoud Baana, 48, of Shotton Walk, Rusholme, Manchester, and Mohamed Omar, 36, father of six, of Caythorpe Street, Moss Side, Manchester, were found guilty at their trial. Baana was jailed for two years and nine months and Omar received two years.
Omar Abdi, 41, of Brentwood Street, Moss Side, Saleh Mohamed, 38, brother of Ali Bana Mohamed, of Romford Road, Forest Gate, London, pleaded guilty, as did Ali Bana Mohamed’s nephew, Rashid Ahmed, 31, of Hodgsons Tower, Guildford Drive, Birmingham and Hamza Hashim, 41, from Gantock Walk, Moss Side.
Abdi received 13 months probation for two years; Mohamed two years eight months; Ahmed was imprisoned for 20 months and Hashim received three years and two months.
The court was told that both Hashim and Saleh Mohammed were convicted of fraud at the time of the offences, with suspended prison terms pending.
Rashid Ahmed also has a criminal record for fraud. Mohammed Baana has two convictions, the most recent being perversion of justice.
Omar Abdi has no criminal record and Mohamed Omar was convicted of importing drugs for which he received a suspended sentence. The fraud started immediately after the imposition of this sentence.
https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/fraudster-cheated-benefit-system-out-26380786 Fraudster has cheated the benefits scheme out of £1.7million with claims for 188 fictional children