It’s payback time for cheats and criminals
A BENEFITS cheat from Kentish Town has been jailed and ordered to pay back more than £140,000 as part of the police s tough new approach to fraudsters. Payback Fortnight was run by Camden Police in February and March, and netted almost £200,000
A BENEFITS cheat from Kentish Town has been jailed and ordered to pay back more than £140,000 as part of the police's tough new approach to fraudsters.
Payback Fortnight was run by Camden Police in February and March, and netted almost £200,000 through the Proceeds of Crime Act.
A confiscation order of £143,313 was handed to 45-year-old Heather Hamed from Inkerman Road, who had built up a property empire which included houses in London, Brighton and Spain.
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"She convinced herself it would be totally acceptable to claim more than £85,000 in rental payments from the council for living in property she in fact owned," said Detective Sergeant Iain Mackichan, one of the financial investigators in the case.
"She maintained she was justified in doing this on the basis that the property was held in 'trust' for her children and she could therefore re-mortgage and buy more properties, rent these out and never declare to the council that she had this income."
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After police checked every detail of her property portfolio it was discovered she had never declared she was buying properties for a trust.
"In the end her reluctance to pay the accepted benefit figure - in reality a relatively small amount of cash given the value of her properties during the investigation - has meant that with the enforced payment of this confiscation order, her prison sentence and the change in lenders' attitudes to re-mortgages, she will be left with virtually nothing," said Det Sgt Mackichan.
"Given the time span involved, no matter how long it takes, the Payback Unit will pursue offenders and seek to strip away all available assets deemed to be the benefit of criminal conduct."
Hamed was first charged in November 2001 but twice failed to appear at court. After an eight-day trial at Snaresbrook Crown Court in March 2006, she was sentenced to two years behind bars.
And last month, using new powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act, police were able to make the cash demand.
Enquiries into her financial background revealed that she had seven properties in London and the Brighton area as well as one in Spain. At one point she was living in Inkerman Road claiming housing benefit, listing her father as her landlord while he lived in another of her properties in Brighton. At this address, he claimed housing benefit and listed her as his landlord.
At an earlier confiscation hearing she accepted her benefit from her criminal conduct came to £203,000. But she fought to avoid having her property empire broken up to pay her dues.
His Honour Judge Platt ruled in favour of the Crown before making the confiscation order against her.
She now has six months to come up with the cash or face more time behind bars.
Hamed is not the only criminal to have been hit in the pocket during last month's operation. Brutal Hampstead mugger Kevin Nevers, who was sentenced to life behind bars in February, was stripped of £2,000 - the only cash he had to his name.
And following a routine stop in Bayham Street, Camden Town, police arrested two men aged 27 and 30 for money laundering and seized £38,000 in cash. The men are currently on bail to return to police in April.
Detective Sergeant Paul Jones, from Camden's Financial Investigation Unit, said: "These results demonstrate police will pursue people profiting from crime. By depriving criminals of their ill-gotten gains we will hit them where it hurts."