Fraudster tricked benefits system out of £1.7million with claims for 188 fictitious children

A fraudster has cheated the child benefit and tax credit system out of more than £1.7million with claims for 188 non-existent children.

Ali Bana Mohamed enlisted relatives and others to participate in the scam, which involved submitting bogus claims under around 70 different names. They got away with the brazen scheme until suspicion was aroused by HMRC.

The tax office spotted the same two phone numbers repeatedly calling the Tax Credit Claims Call Center in seemingly unrelated claims and a dedicated DWP investigation was launched.

Today, six of the fraudsters were sentenced to prison terms totaling more than 13 years, with one having had his sentence suspended.

Judge Brian Cummings, QC, praised the DWP investigators for “their skill and determination in their investigation”.

Mastermind Ali Bana Mohamed, 40, from Hulme, Manchester, was jailed for three-and-a-half years in January after admitting 29 fraud offenses.







Liverpool Crown Court heard the defendants’ cases
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Picture:

Echo of Liverpool)


He was already serving 16 years for drug and immigration offenses and the judge, who ordered the sentence to be consecutive, said it would have been longer without his current sentence.

Liverpool Crown Court heard the defendants lived in Manchester, Birmingham and London.

They are all Somalis but come from a specific region with its own Bravenese dialect and were assisted by the only Bravenese interpreter in the country.

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, told the court the defendants were in the dock as part of Operation Paratrooper, which involved an investigation by the DWP’s Serious and Organized Crime Section.

“The individual conspiracies in which each of these six defendants were involved were smaller parts of a massive fraud perpetrated by Ali Bana Mohamed.

“His fraud targeted the UK tax credit and child benefit system. A specific investigation has established that Ali Bana Mohamed had made claims for family allowances and tax credits for around 70 different adult names over a nine-year period between April 2007 and July 2016.

Mr. Slack explained that in some cases, adults have had their identities misused.

Four of the defendants allowed fraudulent claims to be advanced on their behalf and actively participated in these frauds, obtaining varying amounts.

All of the fraudulent claims put forward by Ali Bana Mohamed were made on the basis that the adult had taken care of named children, and was entitled to family allowances and tax credits.

But Mr Slack said these children were all “fictitious”.

“In all, 188 different, entirely fictional children were claimed for these claims. A total of £1,766,594.87 was paid in relation to these fraudulent claims, including £345,642.80 in child benefit payments and £1,420,952.07 in tax credit payments.

Mr Slack said: “Ali Bana Mohamed had a relatively simple but effective way of storing all the information he needed to execute these false claims.

“When his home in Epping Street, Moss Side, Manchester, was raided in April 2016, immigration investigators found several handwritten notebooks hidden under clothing at the back of a cupboard. “

A handwriting expert concluded that the handwriting in these notebooks was that of Ali Bana Mohamed.

Mr Slack said the notebooks “generally listed the identities used to pursue the claims, the names and dates of birth of the fictitious children, the bank account and sort code of the bank in which the payments were made and the phone details passwords used in phone calls related to these claims.

“Ali Bana Mohamed had several bank accounts in his name or in the name of one of his pseudonyms into which part of the proceeds of the frauds were paid. He also had payments directed to accounts in the names of others, including accounts managed in the names of the defendants.

Two of the defendants, Mohammed Omar and Mohamoud Baana, denied their roles and during their trial the jury heard that the suspicious phone numbers received by HRMC had been discovered to belong to Ali Bana Mohamed, leading to surveys.

“He had several bank accounts in his name or in the name of one of his pseudonyms into which part of the proceeds of the frauds were paid. He also had payments directed to accounts in the names of other people, including accounts managed on behalf of the defendants.

“He was the orchestrator of the frauds. In many cases, he was able to act alone, such as when he arranged for a claim to be paid into one of his own bank accounts. However, in other cases he needed the help of other people and the other defendants agreed to pursue specific frauds with him,” Mr. Slack said.

Mohamed Maye Omar’s role was to obtain birth certificates that could be used by Ali Bana Mohamed to commit fraud.

Mohamoud Baana, 48, of Rusholme, Manchester, and Mohamed Omar, 36, father of six, of Moss Side, Manchester were found guilty after trial. Baana was imprisoned for two years nine months and Omar received two years.

Omar Abdi, 41, of Moss Side, Saleh Mohamed, 38, brother of Ali Bana Mohamed, of Forest Gate, London, pleaded guilty, as did Ali Bana Mohamed’s nephew, Rashid Ahmed, 31, of Birmingham and Hamza Hashim, 41, from Moss Side.

Abdi was sentenced to 13 months in prison, suspended for two years; Mohamed two years eight months; Ahmed was imprisoned for 20 months and Hashim was sentenced to three years and two months.

The court was told that Hashim and Saleh Mohammed had previous convictions for fraud and were given suspended sentences at the time of the offences.

Rashid Ahmed also has previous convictions for fraud. Mohammed Baana has two convictions, the most recent for perverting the course of justice.

Omar Abdi has no previous convictions and Mohamed Omar has a drug importation conviction for which he received a suspended sentence. The fraud began immediately after the imposition of this sentence.

A government spokesperson said: “This is another example that crime does not pay. These criminals are now being rightly punished, and our serious and organized crime team will continue to uncover, arrest and to punish benefit fraud wherever it occurs”.

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