Published: Thursday, 2nd November 2017

The fraudster was given a 12-month sentence for subletting his council property.

On 23 October 2017 at Woolwich Crown Court, Mr Mustafa Mustafa, age 33, was sentenced following a successful prosecution by the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Not living at the property

In March 2014 Mr Mustafa obtained a one-bedroom council property at Middle Park Avenue, however the Royal Borough's Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud Team received information alleging that Mr Mustafa was no longer residing at the property and was subletting to others.

Financial enquiries identified that Mr Mustafa had received regular payments from individuals into his bank account and from April 2014 to October 2016 he had received payments in excess of £10,000 with over £2,000 of this described as 'rent' on his bank statements.

Enquiries also identified that Mr Mustafa had spent at least 17 months out of the UK since April 2014.

Receiving regular payments for rent

In November 2016 Royal Borough investigators visited the property and spoke with a male who confirmed his wife and child had been residing there since August 2014 and that he paid his wife's monthly rent of £700.00 to her landlord, Mr Mustafa. He confirmed that he had also paid Mr Mustafa an initial payment of £2,150 to cover the deposit, one month's rent and to cover the costs of the credit checks and references on his wife that Mr Mustafa stated he needed to undertake.

In January 2017 Greenwich Royal Borough investigators interviewed Mr Mustafa under caution. He admitted that shortly after obtaining the council property from the Royal Borough he had gone to live in Northern Cyprus and had been abroad for at least a year and a half.

Denied he had made any money

Mr Mustafa was shown the evidence of his subletting but denied he had made any money from it and that he had allowed a friend of a friend to stay. However, when shown documents bearing his signature relating to the £2,150 payment from his tenant he agreed that this was his writing.

Mr Mustafa confirmed that he had never lived at the Middle Park Avenue property and had allowed others to reside there whilst he was out of the UK.

Received nearly £9,000 in benefits he wasn't entitled to

Enquiries also found that Mr Mustafa had claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support from March 2014 to February 2016 and he had not declared his true circumstances to Royal Greenwich, namely that he was not living at the property and had sublet it to others. Mr Mustafa received benefits totalling almost £9,000 that he was not entitled to receive.

After the interview Mr Mustafa returned the keys to the property which was re-allocated to a person in genuine need.

Pleaded guilty to all offences

Mr Mustafa was summoned to appear at Bexley Magistrates Court in September 2017 to answer one charge under the Fraud Act 2006, two charges under the Prevention of Housing Fraud Act 2013 and one charge under the Social Security Administration Act 1992. Mr Mustafa pleaded guilty to all four offences and the matter was referred to Crown Court for sentencing.

On 24 October 2017 at Woolwich Crown Court Mr Mustafa repeated his guilty plea to the four charges and was sentenced to 12 months' imprisonment. The Court also heard that offences committed by Mr Mustafa fell within a period of a suspended prison sentence for other matters and he was imprisoned for a further 17 weeks.

'Depriving the Council of much needed resources'

Councillor Maureen O'Mara, Cabinet Member for Customer Services and Anti-Fraud, said: "Mr Mustafa was granted Council accommodation in March 2014 but he had no intention of moving into it, instead he sublet it to others and made himself a rental profit from his own unsuspecting tenants. On top of that he then had the audacity to claim Housing Benefit, again depriving the Council of much needed resources.

"Mr Mustafa's actions were shameful and I am pleased to hear that his greed has led to prison. Let this be a warning to others who believe that subletting a much needed Council property is acceptable - it is not and you will be prosecuted."