Woman jailed for £25,000 benefit abuse

Sister and brother Rukhsana Dastagir and Imran Dastagir, who have been sentenced for benefit fraud

Sister and brother Rukhsana Dastagir and Imran Dastagir, who have been sentenced for benefit fraud

First published in News Swindon Advertiser: Photograph of the Author by , @Michael_Benke

A WOMAN who took part in a benefit scam totalling almost £25,000 has been jailed for 18 weeks.

Rukhsana Dastagir, 43, of Torrington Court, admitted 12 counts of benefit fraud at various points stretching back to 2005.

In total she claimed just over £23,000 of housing benefits under false pretences and a further £1,000 of council tax.

Her brother Imran, 38, of Carstairs Avenue, admitted creating false documents to support her claim for housing benefit, starting in 2011, and was ordered to carry out 250 hours of community service.

The pair admitted the offences earlier this month and were sentenced at Swindon Magistrates’ Court this week.

The scam was carried out when Rukhsana was living with relatives.

When a person lives with family members they are not entitled to housing benefits, but she filled out forms to claim money and failed to disclose her sister and brother, who was not involved at this stage, owned the property.

During this time she collected £5,000 illegally and later moved to a property in William Street, owned solely by her sister, and got another £13,000.

Imran, who works as a taxi driver, became involved in 2011 when his sister moved back to Carstairs Avenue.

Council officers became suspicious because the pair shared the same surname.

Rukhsana claimed they were not related and said it was just a coincidence, while Imran produced a false tenancy agreement and provided a false address.

At one point he even produced a fake eviction notice to make the ruse seem more genuine.

Following an anonymous referral to the council’s fraud team the pair were interviewed by an investigator.

At the first hearing, Vyvyan Thatcher, prosecuting, said: “This is not like the case you often see where something starts off lawful and later becomes fraudulent.

“This was fraudulent from the outset and very serious when you consider the length of time and amounts involved.”

After the pair were sentenced Coun Russell Holland (Con, St Margaret and South Marston,) cabinet member for finance, said: “It is extremely sad that a small number of people deliberately abuse the benefits system for their own personal gain.

“The benefits system exists to help those people who would like to work but cannot due to health problems, or those who are on low incomes. People who fraudulently claim benefits are effectively stealing from taxpayers and are undermining the financial integrity of the system.

“As this particular investigation shows, our investigators work hard to uncover all types of fraud. The message to fraudsters is clear: we will investigate and prosecute you, and you can end up in prison.

“Anyone who suspects a person of fraudulently claiming benefits can contact the council by using the confidential fraud hotline number, 01793 464690.”

Comments (7)

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5:10pm Sat 30 Aug 14

drsahib says...

This is not good news for relatives, no one will be happy after listen, this is not good act as well.
This is not good news for relatives, no one will be happy after listen, this is not good act as well. drsahib
  • Score: -5

5:14pm Sat 30 Aug 14

house on the hill says...

What a fvcking joke! 18 weeks, seriously? How soon before they are back on benefits and what about the taxpayers money they stole, will we ever see that again? No wonder so many rip the welfare state off if the penalties are so pathetic assuming they do actually get caught. If you abuse your state funded handouts, then you dont get anymore, simples!
What a fvcking joke! 18 weeks, seriously? How soon before they are back on benefits and what about the taxpayers money they stole, will we ever see that again? No wonder so many rip the welfare state off if the penalties are so pathetic assuming they do actually get caught. If you abuse your state funded handouts, then you dont get anymore, simples! house on the hill
  • Score: 19

10:30am Sun 31 Aug 14

Sandor Clegane says...

9 weeks in a low security, open prison. Not bad for £25,000. Not sure many of us 'earn' the equivalent of £12k a month.

Rather interestingly, the maximum sentence for this crime is actually 10 years - which is somewhat different to 4 months - especially as this case involved just about every aggravating feature that's listed:

Obtaining by deception - benefit fraud
Title: Theft
Offence: Obtaining by deception - benefit fraud
Legislation: S15 Theft Act 1968
Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 10 years

Culpability & Harm

Offending carried out over a long period
Offender acting with others
Planning
Motivated by greed or desire to live beyond his other means
False identities or details
False or forged documents
Official documents altered or falsified

The guilty plea would have automatically reduced the maximum sentence to around 7 years, but it's very, very hard to see how the magistrates could then suddenly reduce it to a paltry 4 months. It is also very hard to see how they might consider that any kind of deterrent to others who now realise they can obtain £25,000 for spending 2 months in a holiday camp.
9 weeks in a low security, open prison. Not bad for £25,000. Not sure many of us 'earn' the equivalent of £12k a month. Rather interestingly, the maximum sentence for this crime is actually 10 years - which is somewhat different to 4 months - especially as this case involved just about every aggravating feature that's listed: Obtaining by deception - benefit fraud Title: Theft Offence: Obtaining by deception - benefit fraud Legislation: S15 Theft Act 1968 Statutory Limitations & Maximum Penalty: 10 years Culpability & Harm Offending carried out over a long period Offender acting with others Planning Motivated by greed or desire to live beyond his other means False identities or details False or forged documents Official documents altered or falsified The guilty plea would have automatically reduced the maximum sentence to around 7 years, but it's very, very hard to see how the magistrates could then suddenly reduce it to a paltry 4 months. It is also very hard to see how they might consider that any kind of deterrent to others who now realise they can obtain £25,000 for spending 2 months in a holiday camp. Sandor Clegane
  • Score: 26

11:55am Sun 31 Aug 14

MrAngry says...

Agree with the above comment. She should serve her jail sentence, pay back the money and be barred from making future benefits claims.
Agree with the above comment. She should serve her jail sentence, pay back the money and be barred from making future benefits claims. MrAngry
  • Score: 12

8:35am Mon 1 Sep 14

Isthisthebestswindon cando says...

At least for once someone has been jailed for an offence, even if only for a token length of time. The usual Swindon Advertiser headlines on crime stories seem to always include the words "spared jail"......
At least for once someone has been jailed for an offence, even if only for a token length of time. The usual Swindon Advertiser headlines on crime stories seem to always include the words "spared jail"...... Isthisthebestswindon cando
  • Score: 11

2:06pm Mon 1 Sep 14

messyits says...

Sandor--for once I agree the sentence was unduly lenient as to both defendants.
However you should have been clearer in your rendition of the law as Magistrates have limited sentencing powers. I believe justice would have been better served by referring the case to the Crown Court. I also believe the CPS should have insisted the case be taken to the higher court on conspiracy offences which attract heavier sentencing.
Sandor--for once I agree the sentence was unduly lenient as to both defendants. However you should have been clearer in your rendition of the law as Magistrates have limited sentencing powers. I believe justice would have been better served by referring the case to the Crown Court. I also believe the CPS should have insisted the case be taken to the higher court on conspiracy offences which attract heavier sentencing. messyits
  • Score: -1

3:08pm Mon 1 Sep 14

Sandor Clegane says...

Isthisthebestswindon cando wrote:
At least for once someone has been jailed for an offence, even if only for a token length of time. The usual Swindon Advertiser headlines on crime stories seem to always include the words "spared jail"......
The criminal brother in this case WAS 'spared jail' and did 'walk free from court'.

Magistrates are able to hand town a maximum of 12 months in total. This crime should have been sent to the Crown Court and dealt with correctly, but prosecutors are likely very wary of sending such crimes there due to an increased possibility of an even more unduly lenient sentence - or yet another 'walk free from court'.

Unfortunately, this is the rather dire problem we face in Swindon. Worse still, nobody appears to have any intention of doing anything to rectify it.
[quote][p][bold]Isthisthebestswindon cando[/bold] wrote: At least for once someone has been jailed for an offence, even if only for a token length of time. The usual Swindon Advertiser headlines on crime stories seem to always include the words "spared jail"......[/p][/quote]The criminal brother in this case WAS 'spared jail' and did 'walk free from court'. Magistrates are able to hand town a maximum of 12 months in total. This crime should have been sent to the Crown Court and dealt with correctly, but prosecutors are likely very wary of sending such crimes there due to an increased possibility of an even more unduly lenient sentence - or yet another 'walk free from court'. Unfortunately, this is the rather dire problem we face in Swindon. Worse still, nobody appears to have any intention of doing anything to rectify it. Sandor Clegane
  • Score: 12

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