A company director who falsely claimed £50,000 of benefits was motivated by ‘pure greed’ a court has heard.
Mrs Mukaosolu Nneka Okonkwo, of Kingswood Close, Kennington, has been jailed for nine months after a prosecution led by Lambeth Council.
Okonkwo claimed around £50,000 in benefits between 1999 and 2008, despite owning two properties, including a house worth £372,000 in a leafy street in Barnet, and a property in Kennington that she had purchased under the Right To Buy Scheme.
Lambeth Council investigators became suspicious after allegations that her ex-partner, who was a council housing tenant, was actually illegally subletting his council home and living with Okonkwo in Kennington.
Investigators discovered that when making claims for benefits she had failed to declare significant income that she derived from her directorship of a company, Chukshe Company UK Ltd, which imported cars, traded cheap international telephone calls and operated a cheque cashing service. Investigators discovered that on applications for mortgages on her properties she had claimed to be self-employed and earning around £100,000 per year. She also failed to declare that she was renting out one of her properties.
She hid bank accounts from authorities and failed to declare her true income when making claims for a range of benefits, including Income Support, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
Prosecution proceedings were brought against Okonkwo which included charges from Lambeth Council, Barnet Council and the Department for Work and Pensions. She pleaded guilty to all charges at the Inner London Crown Court on 23 October 2012 .
In sentencing her to nine month’s imprisonment on November 14th, His Honour Judge Chapple, the Honorary Recorder of Southwark, said: “The motivation for this offending I am sure is that of pure greed. These are blatant offences. Benefits are there for those that need them. I sentence you on behalf of the public who treat these offences with contempt.” She was also ordered to pay £2,500 costs.”
Cllr Paul McGlone, Lambeth Council’s Cabinet Member for Finance, said: “This was a shocking example of fraud but I’m pleased that the judge recognised the seriousness of the case and handed down a custodial sentence.
“People who claim benefits they are not entitled to are stealing from the public purse and this case sends a clear message to benefits fraudsters that they will be caught. Our anti-fraud team is saving council tax payers hundreds of thousands of pounds each year by relentlessly investigating and pursuing suspect claimants and bringing them to justice.”
Okonkwo also used her married surname of Emeter.