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Fraud and prosecutions, Housing

Right to Buy fraud: Woman jailed

A 54-year-old woman has been given an 18 months sentence after being found guilty of fraud against Lambeth Council.

Judy Thomas bought a property in Heath Road from Lambeth council under the right to buy scheme in 2003 with a discount of £38,000. Under right to buy legislation the person purchasing the property has to confirm that the property in question is their only or principal home.

However, it became apparent that Thomas had not been resident at the Heath Road property at the time of the purchase and was in fact being pursued by Lambeth’s Council Tax Department for outstanding arrears. In order to support her claim that she wasn’t liable for the council tax arrears, Thomas provided evidence including copies of a tenancy agreement and bank statements showing rent being received for the property that she’d been renting out since 2001.

The case was referred to the Lambeth Counter Fraud Team to investigate who were able to establish that Thomas had been living with her husband in Ilford since 1994. As Thomas had been subletting the property her declaration that this was her principal home was proven to be false and consequently the case was referred to the council’s legal team for criminal prosecution.

At the end of a five day trial, the jury, after deliberating for only eight minutes, found Thomas guilty of two offences under the Theft Act. She was sentenced to 18 months in custody.

Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet member for Housing said: “Lambeth council will pursue frauds and cheats through the courts thanks to the tireless hard work of our fraud team.

“In the middle of a housing crisis we won’t go easy on greedy people like Judy Thomas, who are robbing the local community and she’ll now be spending Christmas behind bars.”

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