A FRAUDULENT couple who cheated nearly £40,000 in benefits in a bid to amass a property empire in West Harrow have been spared jail.
Fraudsters Vipul Patel and Udita Patel, of Bowen Road, Harrow, defrauded taxpayers out of the cash during a four year spell of deception.
The husband and wife claimed £15,936.49 in housing and council tax benefits between October 2004 to January 2009, while Vipul Patel claimed an additional £23,068.15 in income support which he was not entitled to.
The fraud was detected by Harrow Council after it was discovered the pair failed to notify the council that Udita Patel had purchased three homes in Vaughan Road in October 2004, February 2005, and August 2006.
The three homes, within a few hundred yards of each other, were bought for £190,000, £178,000 and £185,000.
It was thanks in part to the fraudulently claimed benefits that they were able to put down deposits on the three homes totalling £83,000.
Further enquiries by Harrow Council showed all three of the properties had been rented to tenants while Vipul and Udita Patel claimed Housing Benefit to help pay their own rent.
At Harrow Crown Court on Thursday last week, Vipul Patel was sentenced to nine months imprisonment, suspended for two years, while Udita Patel was also handed six weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.
They had each admitted four counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances on September 20.
Vipal was ordered to observe a curfew between the hours of 9pm to 6am for two months, while Udita was ordered to observe a curfew for two weeks.
Confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 are also underway to recover the money overpaid through assets including the three properties owned by Udita Patel.
The hearing is due to take place at Harrow Crown Court in April.
Councillor Graham Henson, portfolio holder for performance, customer services and corporate services on Harrow Council, said afterwards: “We work hard to make sure that taxpayers’ money only goes to people in real need.
“At a time when councils are facing huge cuts in their budgets and pulling out all the stops to protect services, we will not tolerate people taking public money they are not entitled to.”