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Fraudster ordered to repay £¼ million proceeds of crime

A fraudster has been ordered to repay £250,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act after Waltham Forest Council’s Counter Fraud Team took action following an earlier prosecution in which it was established he and his partner had ripped off the public purse by claiming over £120,000 in benefits to which they were not entitled.

Abrar Abbasi, formerly of Belle Vue Road, Walthamstow, was ordered by the Crown Court at Snaresbrook on 16 October to repay the quarter of a million pounds within six months, or face a further three years of custody. When deciding on the size of the confiscation order, the court took account of the appreciation in the value of the house and Abbasi’s other available assets. He was also ordered to pay a further £8,228 to the Council in legal costs.

Councillor Clare Coghill, Cabinet Member for Economic Growth and High Streets, said, “Our Counter Fraud Team works tirelessly in tracking down people who defraud the Council, and as this case demonstrates they will not hesitate to use all the powers at their disposal to hold fraudsters to account.

“Defrauding the Council is the equivalent of taking money out of the pockets of every taxpayer in the borough and at a time when we are having to work really hard to make sure we spend every penny wisely, this sort of behaviour quite simply cannot and will not be tolerated.”

Last October Mr Abbasi was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to convert criminal property. Both his sister, who was conspiring with him, and his partner, Teresa Belton-Martin, who was convicted of benefit fraud, received non-custodial sentences.

An investigation by the Council, in collaboration with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), revealed that when Teresa Belton-Martin and Abrar Abbasi moved into his property in Belle Vue Road, Walthamstow in December 2005, Ms Belton-Martin failed to notify the authorities that she was living with her ‘landlord’ as husband and wife.

Mr Abbasi disguised his identity by changing his name by deed poll, and then he changed the name on the title deeds and mortgage to ‘Abdullah Khan’, to whom the Housing Benefit was paid. He then transferred the property and the mortgage to his sister, Asia Ahmed, and notified the Council that she was the new landlord. Finally he took back the mortgage, transferring it into the name ‘Abrar Khan’.

The amount of benefits they received from the public purse was more than £120,000. However Abbasi’s part in the crime was the £78,325 of the Housing Benefit awarded to Belton-Martin that he used to pay the mortgage on the home where they lived with their seven children.

Council investigators, accompanied by the DWP and local police, found a huge cannabis factory when they visited the couple’s home in July 2012 to search for evidence of benefit fraud. Abbasi was sentenced to 34 months for cannabis cultivation and is still serving this sentence.

The financial investigation that followed established that Abbasi had deposited £173,298, much of it in cash, into his bank accounts in the six years preceding the offences. While he had the opportunity to explain to the court how he obtained the money and persuade the judge that it was not from the proceeds of crime, it would appear he was less than convincing.

If you suspect someone is committing any kind of fraud against the Council or the public sector, contact the Council’s Counter Fraud Group on or write to them at PO BOX 193, London Borough of Waltham Forest, Town Hall, Forest Road, London, E17 4JA. All information will be treated as confidential.

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