Published: Monday, 13th November 2017

James Maties was given 22 months in prison for using stolen credit cards to pay his Council Tax with the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

Mr Maties, 33, also obtained a social housing tenancy with the asra Housing Group using a false identity.

In November 2016 Royal Greenwich staff processing a Council Tax claim for Mr Maties identified that a property located at Elmgrove Point, Plumstead, had debit card payments made to a Council Tax account of over £3,000 that had been identified as fraudulent transactions by the respective banks. The matter was referred to the Council's Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud team for further investigation.

Enquiries identified 15 debit card payments had been made to the Elmgrove Point Council Tax account totalling £3,180.04 and each of these had been made using a variety of stolen bank cards. It was evident that the only person to gain from the fraudulent payments was the liable person for Council Tax.

The property at Elmgrove Point is a one bedroom flat owned by asra Housing Group and it was identified that the tenancy had been obtained in December 2011by a male, however closer scrutiny of the Dutch Passport that he provided as his identity document revealed that it had been altered and the true owner of the passport was in fact female.

In January 2017, Royal Greenwich investigators accompanied the police and a warrant was executed at the Elmgrove Point address. There was no reply at the property so a forced entry was made. Inside was a male, a female and her daughter.

The man identified himself as James Maties, however when searched it was found that he had a bank card relating to the false identity of the tenant but he matched the exact identity of the photo image held in the false Dutch Passport. However, Mr Maties maintained that the asra tenant was his landlord. Also located during the search was over £3,300 in cash and a variety of electronic devices which were seized by the police.

The electronic devices were sent off for forensic analysis and further evidence linking Mr Maties to the false identity was obtained.

Mr Maties was summonsed to Bexley Magistrates Court in July 2017 to answer one charge under the Identity Documents Act 2010 and seven charges under the Fraud Act 2006. Mr Maties pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The matter was passed to Woolwich Crown Court and in August 2017 Mr Maties appeared again and repeated his not guilty plea. The presiding judge ordered that Mr Maties to be remanded in custody to await trial.

On 1 November 2017 Mr Maties appeared before His Honour Judge Miller at Woolwich Crown Court and changed his plea to guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 22 months in prison. It was also agreed that the £3,300 cash found during the search of his home address would be passed to the Royal Borough of Greenwich to clear the Council Tax debt at the asra property.

The one-bedroom property has also now been returned to the asra Housing Group.

'His greedy actions led him to be identified as a tenancy fraudster'

Councillor Maureen O'Mara, Cabinet Member for Customer Services, said: "This is another excellent result for the Royal Borough. Mr Maties was caught trying to pay his Council Tax using stolen bank cards and his greedy actions led him to be identified as a tenancy fraudster.

"Not only has he got a prison sentence of almost two years, he had to pay back the £3,000 he tried to deceive from others and will now have no home to return to after his sentence is complete. The good news is that the asra property will now go to a person in genuine need of accommodation."

'Tried to defraud a number of people'

A spokesperson from PA Housing said: "PA Housing is glad to have been able to help the Royal Borough of Greenwich to secure a successful prosecution in this case. The sums involved were significant and Mr Maties tried to defraud a number of people, as well as the council and us. We are happy to have been able to support this criminal investigation."

PA Housing was formed through an amalgamation of Paragon Community Housing with asra and Leicester Housing Associations in April 2017.