Organised crime gang committed £4.6 million benefit fraud
The phrase “benefit fraud” conjures images of people living close to the poverty line, struggling to make ends meet and forced to desperate measures by desperate times. Of course, in many cases, that is exactly what happens, but if we have learned one thing in our many years experience at Hylton Potts, it is that anyone can find themselves on the sharp end of an investigation by the Department of Work and Pensions, regardless of wealth, employment status or social background.
Only a few weeks ago, we covered the story of a member of the landed gentry with royal connections who is facing a prison sentence for benefit fraud, and there have been other examples of TV celebrities who have unwittingly put themselves on the DWP’s radar.
However, the recent news of a £4.6 million fraud in Scotland takes the whole topic of benefit fraud to a new level. A criminal gang, with links to money laundering, mortgage fraud and even drug cultivation has decided to add benefit fraud to its repertoire. And a police raid earlier this week has brought the whole network crashing down.
Largest ever raid
On 01 August, more than 100 police officers teamed up with investigators from the DWP, HM Revenue and Customs and other government bodies in what was described by Assistant Chief Constable Gillian MacDonald as the largest single police operation since Police Scotland came into existence, and one that had taken months of planning. 16 arrests were made, while hundreds of documents were seized from homes and businesses across the Govanhill area of Glasgow.
Striking from the top
It appears that the criminal gangs created false IDs, and then used a number of vulnerable people in the community to make the claims. What is particularly gratifying in this case is that the primary objective of the raid appears to have been to target the criminal kingpins who are behind the crime as opposed to the easier soft targets.
The gang had been operating out of mobile offices in an attempt to stay one step ahead of the authorities, so it would have been all too easy for the investigators and police to simply pick off the claimants themselves rather than the genuine criminals. Clearly, there is still plenty more to come on this story, so we will continue to monitor the media for further updates.
The many sides of benefit fraud
I mentioned at the beginning that at Hylton Potts, we have seen people investigated for benefit fraud for a whole variety of reasons. One thing this case goes to prove is that the claimants themselves are not usually master criminals – typically, they are either in difficult circumstances that have led them to make bad decisions, or they have simply misunderstood the rules.
But perhaps now, we will have to add a third category, which is those coerced into committing fraud by professional criminals. That might sound a little cynical, but according to Bob Gallacher, a senior investigator at the DWP, the criminal activity in Glasgow could be the tip of the iceberg. He suggested that similar gangs are suspected of operating in towns and cities up and down the UK.
We are here to help, not judge
Ultimately, the circumstances that lead to someone being investigated for benefit fraud are always unique to the individual. So if you have received a letter from the DWP, get in touch and we will help you find a solution.
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