A FATHER-OF-FIVE who conned taxpayers out of £23,000 worth of benefits despite claiming £50,000 in student loans and grants has been spared jail.
Following a joint investigation conducted by Harrow Council and the department for work and pensions, Justin Phanzu was found to be making illegal claims for housing benefits and Jobseeker’s Allowance between July 2005 and March 2010.
The 47-year-old admitted seven charges of making a dishonest statement to obtain benefits, on October 5, after turning himself in to police when a warrant had been issued for his arrest for him failing to attend court.
At Harrow Crown Court on Friday, November 2 he was handed three months imprisonment, suspended for two years, ordered to conduct 200 hours of unpaid work and told to pay £1,000 towards costs of the investigation.
At the time of the offence Phanzu, who was living in Alexandra Road, South Harrow, failed to declare receipt of more than £50,000 of student grants and loans between September 2004 and June 2009, which were paid into an undeclared bank account.
He also failed to declare he had started employment with DSG International in September 2008 with his earnings also being paid into an undeclared bank account.
The judge was satisfied that the offence passed the threshold for sending Phanzu, who now lives in Furness Road, Harlesden, to prison but he was spared jail on the basis that locking him up would cause the state an even greater financial burden as he is now in employment.
Councillor Graham Henson, portfolio holder for performance, customer services and corporate services at Harrow Council said afterwards: “At a time when we are being forced to make significant cuts to our budgets we need every penny of taxpayers money to be going to genuine cases.
“Any abuse of the system will not be tolerated and we do everything in our power to make sure any false claimants are brought to justice.”