Benefit fraud couple slammed as ‘dishonest and greedy’ in Harrow Crown Court

PUBLISHED: 17:10 20 January 2017 | UPDATED: 17:10 20 January 2017

Keith O'Hara has been charged with three counts of rape and two counts of ABH.

Keith O'Hara has been charged with three counts of rape and two counts of ABH.

Archant

Fraudulently claiming thousands of pounds in benefits has resulted in a suspended prison sentence for a ‘dishonest and greedy’ couple.

Thirty-seven-year-old Ines Da Silva, of Shenley, and her partner, Gasonu Agogo, 38, were yesterday (Thursday) both been given eight months’ suspended prison sentences.

Da Silva had claimed she did not know where the father of her children was, when they were in fact living together.

When they appeared at Harrow Crown Court, the pair were given prison sentences suspended for 18 months and ordered to undertake 120 hours in unpaid work.

They were also ordered to pay prosecution costs, which totalled more than £4,500. The couple’s actions were described by the judge as “thoroughly dishonest and greedy”.

The pair obtained around £18,000 in housing benefit and more than £2,000 in council tax support from Hertsmere borough council between June 9, 2014 and January 3, 2016.

Da Silva had pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly making a false representation and two counts of furnishing a false document, while Agogo admitted two counts of forgery when they appeared in court in December last year.

The mum had claimed she was living alone at Blenheim Mews in Shenley with her children, and had provided false tenancy agreements in May 2014 and May 2015 to support this. In addition, Da Silva wrote a letter to benefits officers suspicious of her living arrangements, claiming she did not know Agogo’s whereabouts.

However, following an investigation by Hertfordshire’s Shared Anti-Fraud Service (SAFS), the real tenancy agreement was discovered which showed the pair had been living together since January 2015 and that Agogo, a company director, had been paying the monthly rent to the couple’s landlord.

The couple have since repaid £7,000 of the fraudulently claimed benefits, but the council will be submitting a confiscation order to recoup the full sum.

After sentencing, Cllr John Graham, Hertsmere’s property portfolio holder, said: “This couple were determined to cheat the system and cases like this must be brought to court.

“At a time when local government resources are finite, anyone who illegally claims support and benefits is taking help away from those who genuinely need it.

“If you suspect someone may be fraudulently claiming benefits to help with their tenancy or council tax or have fraudulently applied for a blue badge, contact us straight away.”

• To report someone committing fraud against the borough council visit the SAFS webpage www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/reportfraud or call 0300 123 4033. All information provided will be treated in confidence.

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