A Woodford Green woman barely escaped a prison sentence after being found guilty of 10 counts of benefit fraud after falsely claiming nearly £75,000 of Housing Benefit over a 13-year period.
Jamila Walters, 42, of Woodford Green, was placed in temporary accommodation with her three children in November 2005 after approaching Waltham Forest Council and claiming to be homeless and without funds to rent on the private market. The family were given tenancy of a four-bedroom house on Beechwood Drive, Woodford Green, and were in receipt of housing and council tax benefits.
However, unbeknownst to the council, Ms Walters purchased a three-bedroom property on Billet Road, Walthamstow in 2006 which she was offering online in the private rental market. Between 2005 to 2016 Ms. Walters fraudulently claimed £74,037.69p in Housing Benefit, and an additional £1,800 in Council Tax Benefit.
Ms Walters even made an application to purchase the council tenancy under the Right to Buy scheme, which was refused after officers spotted inconsistencies in the information she supplied.
The case was heard at Snaresbrook Magistrates’ Court where the jury took less than an hour to find Ms Walters guilty on 10 charges of benefit fraud alongside one charge of obtaining property by deception. The judge sentenced Ms Walters on the 31 August to 18 months in prison on each count, to run concurrently and suspended for two years, and made it very clear that the only reason she had escaped an immediate custodial sentence was because she has three young children.
Waltham Forest Council has now begun eviction proceedings.
Councillor Louise Mitchell, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “Jamila Walters carried out a sustained fraud over several years which deprived a family in genuine need of a roof over their head. She also falsely claimed thousands of pounds in benefits, while at the same time collecting the rent from the property she owned.
“It’s not often we see cases of benefit fraud on this scale. However, we will always push for the maximum penalties for anyone convicted of such staggering deception. The benefit system is intended to help those who through no fault of their own need assistance while they get back on their feet. It is not intended to subsidise those who do not wish to abide by the rules that everyone else must.”