Saturday September 29,2012
By John Chapman
Adeola Thomas, left, was jailed for seven years while his accomplice Abimbola Abiola, right, was locked up for two-and-a-half years for charges relating to identity theft, tax and benefits fraud
AN illegal Nigerian immigrant has been jailed for seven years for trying to claim £3.8million in benefits while using 1,400 stolen identities.
Adeola Thomas, 38, ran a scam that involved filling out nearly 2,500 claim forms by hand.
He managed to get £87,000 paid out but was trapped when benefits staff noticed the same address for multiple claims.
The fraudster, living in Hackney, east London, was arrested at a cashpoint last October while under surveillance by teams from HM Revenue and Customs and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Thomas, who had 17 Post Office account cards in different names, was helped by his partner Abimbola Abiola, 34.
They stole the 1,400 identities to complete 2,495 claim forms for tax credits and benefits.
He spent his share of the money on designer clothes while Abiola treated herself to electrical goods, including a 50-inch television.
Investigators believe the pair had help from other people who have not yet been identified. Both were jailed yesterday at Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London, with Abiola being sentenced to two and a half years.
When she was arrested in October last year, she had £4,125 in cash in her handbag, which she claimed was child benefit – despite the fact she had only one child. Thomas was imprisoned after admitting conspiracy to defraud and money laundering, while Abiola was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud, money laundering and possession of criminal property.
They will be deported after serving their sentences.
Judge William Kennedy said: “This was no less than a criminal industry, with simple and eye-watering criminality designed to maximise the loss to the public.
“It was a difficult investigation carried out with skill and tenacity.
“The largest single joint conspiracy [of its kind] for these departments and the actual loss was kept down because of the work of both departments.”
Simon De Kayne, from HMRC, said: “Adeola Thomas was the mastermind behind this fraud.
“He and his partner tried to rob the UK of vast sums of public money.
“They used the stolen identities of innocent people in an attempt to claim funds they weren’t entitled to.
“The vigilance of HMRC and DWP employees combined with strong security procedures means that only a tiny proportion of the money claimed was paid out. This was a long and complex HMRC investigation.
“Tackling organised fraudsters is a priority for us and we will not hesitate to work with our partner agencies to pursue those who commit this type of offence.”
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