Episode 2 Council House Crackdown


Episode 2

Series following housing fraud investigators. A benefits cheat is caught on camera as she puts on a performance to try and get a council flat.


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Transcript


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I'm Michelle Ackerley.

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My parents both grew up on council estates, and as a family

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we understand the difference social housing can make to people's lives.

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Millions of families across the UK are struggling to find affordable housing.

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So, this is my front room and my bedroom together.

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Many are living in temporary or overcrowded conditions,

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desperate for somewhere decent to live.

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This is our room where we sleep and this is what we've got at the minute.

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We can't really call it our home.

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But some social housing tenants are abusing the system,

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holding on to properties they no longer need.

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When somebody applies for housing,

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you expect them to live in the property and when they don't,

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it does start to take the mickey.

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Or even worse - making a small fortune by illegally subletting them.

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He was charging beyond £1,500 a month.

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He exploited this completely to his advantage.

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So, I'm with housing investigators cracking down on tenancy cheats.

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What a waste.

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If you want to commit tenancy fraud, don't bother coming here.

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Reclaiming properties...

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I need to speak to you, please.

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They've seen an opportunity and they think they're not going to get caught.

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..and giving them to families in genuine need.

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That's how a council house should be.

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It should be loved and looked after.

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This is Council House Crackdown.

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Today...

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an undercover sting exposes a £150,000 benefit swindle...

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You just don't expect someone to be this brazen.

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..and unearths an astonishing attempt at tenancy fraud.

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I think the only thing that's true in this application is her name.

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The whole thing in this form is completely made up.

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Yeah, a complete load of tosh.

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The hunt for a tenancy cheat after a decade of deception.

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There's the possibility that he could've approached an organised crime group.

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If people are willing to pay that money,

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they will be able to acquire false identity documents.

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And a ludicrous attempt to deceive housing authorities.

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I even said to him at one stage,

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"Do you really expect us to believe that these are your things?"

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But he just didn't have any explanation whatsoever.

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This is the lovely seaside resort of Broadstairs in Kent and it was here

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that council investigators embarked on a three-month surveillance

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operation that helped uncover a £150,000 fraud

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and an audacious attempt to obtain a highly sought-after social housing property.

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This lady, struggling into the Royal Borough of Greenwich Council offices,

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is 56-year-old Lisa White.

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She claims to be severely disabled and she's hoping that Greenwich Council

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might grant her a specially adapted property.

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What she doesn't realise is that she's already under investigation by

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Greenwich Council's fraud team.

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The story began three months earlier in Greenwich, south-east London.

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This handsome borough on the banks of the River Thames boasts a wealth

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of history and heritage.

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But at any time there can be up to 16,000 people on the social housing waiting list here.

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Counter-fraud manager Nigel Brown works for the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

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When the council's housing team carried out a routine check of all their benefit claimants,

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Mrs White was on the list.

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In total, she was receiving about £600, £700 a week in various benefits.

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They did a financial review on her account to make sure that she was still

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entitled to the money that was being paid to her.

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A large proportion of the benefits Lisa White received was to pay

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for full-time disability care.

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Mrs White was completely disabled, unable to walk unaided,

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needed an oxygen tank and on one occasion she had told the medical team here

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in the social services that she only had three years to live.

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But when authorities examined invoices from her carer,

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they discovered that he was living 70 miles away from her in Broadstairs, Kent.

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I'm no expert on travel, but I know that if I was to be travelling from

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Broadstairs every day to come and care for Mrs White every day,

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as she was reporting to be done, that would be a journey and a half.

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It would take you longer to get up here every day than it would to do the work,

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so that just really wasn't feasible.

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Mrs White's file was passed on to Nigel's fraud team and amongst all

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the paperwork, one name stood out.

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On here, it shows that her carer is Andrew White and what we found was,

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when we did a credit check on Mr White...

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..it became apparent that he had various links to Lisa White, so they

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appeared to be maybe together in some way.

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And we found that,

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yes, he was related, he was her husband and they had married in 1984.

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When investigators analysed Mr White's property records,

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they made a shocking discovery.

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We then looked at the address that we had held for him in Broadstairs

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and we found that in July 2007

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both he and Mrs White had purchased a property on a mortgage and they

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were, by all effects, by all we could see,

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living in Broadstairs as a couple.

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Lisa White had told authorities that she was disabled and struggling with

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an elderly mother in a one-bedroomed council flat in Greenwich.

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This evidence told a different story.

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It looked like she was actually married and a home owner,

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living with her husband, Andrew White,

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in the picturesque seaside town of Broadstairs in Kent.

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It was beginning to look like Lisa White was leading a double life and

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when investigators dug deeper,

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the evidence suggested that it wasn't just her living arrangements that

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she'd been lying about.

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We did some more checks and it soon came up that Lisa White was connected,

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not only to the address that she was living at with her husband,

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but also linked to the Bandstand in Broadstairs,

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and also the White House Cafe.

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During the spring and summer,

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the Bandstand Kiosk and the White House Cafe in the centre of Broadstairs

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are thriving businesses, serving locals and tourists alike.

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A quick check online suggested that the patrons of these flourishing

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businesses were none other than Andrew and Lisa White.

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We found several online reviews in relation to how Lisa White

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and Andrew White, husband and wife, were together and running this

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business and had done for many years,

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so of course we were thinking, if this lady is as bad as she seems,

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ie, she couldn't lift a cup of tea or walk unaided or would need a

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wheelchair to be outside to manoeuvre herself around,

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how could she be running a cafe and a bandstand?

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Since 2009, Mrs White had been claiming disability benefits

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and high rate income support

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along with financial support for medical prescriptions and a host

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of disability care payments.

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Authorities calculated that Mrs White may have cheated them out

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of more than £150,000 in unentitled benefits.

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It was time to take action.

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We needed to look closer to see if we were being defrauded completely,

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and that's what we did.

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We applied to the Magistrates' Court for surveillance and we were agreed

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on a period of three months to undertake surveillance down in Broadstairs.

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Later...

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It all happened, started happening very quickly.

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..a surveillance operation to capture a benefits cheat unearths evidence of tenancy fraud.

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I could have fell off the chair, really,

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because you just don't expect someone to be this brazen.

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It was like we had hit a gold mine.

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In some cases,

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tenancy cheats are identified and brought to justice in a matter of months.

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In others it could take years. But however long it takes,

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the message from housing investigators is clear.

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There is no hiding place.

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They will track you down and they will get those properties back.

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This photo belongs to Jamaican national Duhane Hall.

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The passport it's attached to belongs to somebody else entirely.

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The cat-and-mouse game this tenancy cheat played with authorities lasted

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more than a decade and cost the taxpayer nearly £200,000.

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Counter-fraud manager Oliver Knight was in charge of the investigation.

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So, Oliver, let's go back to the very beginning.

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When did Duhane Hall first apply for a council flat?

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He initially applied for a council property in 2005,

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approached the council and basically needed accommodation.

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When authorities checked the application everything seemed in order.

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He provided his circumstances, explaining that he needed accommodation,

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he'd come from Jamaica and he was living on his own.

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-Perfectly legitimate as far as we were concerned at that time.

-Yeah.

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-So, no alarm bells, it just seemed perfectly genuine.

-No.

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Provided sufficient identification, it all seemed above board.

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As a non-UK citizen Mr Hall was required to provide proof that not only

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was he eligible for social housing,

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that he was also a permanent resident in the UK.

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This required Home Office approval,

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with an official stamp as well as a fully stamped and approved passport.

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Mr Hall was able to provide everything required by Sandwell Council.

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As well as the application

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he provided documentation from the Home Office

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explaining he had indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom

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and a Jamaican passport which was also stamped with indefinite leave to

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remain in the United Kingdom.

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And looking through this documentation, again that seemed completely above board?

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Above board and no alarm bells suggested anything untoward.

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In a 2016 study by the Office for National Statistics, Sandwell was placed

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in the top ten most deprived areas in the country.

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Before he could be awarded any social housing,

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Mr Hall would have to join a waiting list.

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In Sandwell we have got almost 29,000 council properties, but we still

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have 7,000 people, approximately, on the waiting list,

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so it's all about trying to get the properties to the right people.

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Authorities concluded that after leaving Jamaica to make a fresh start in

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the UK, Mr Hall was in genuine need of support.

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In March 2005 he was placed onto the social housing waiting list and

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eventually a suitable property became available.

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Sandwell Council gave Duhane Hall the keys to his very own one-bedroom

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flat just six miles west of Birmingham in Oldbury.

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A one-bedroom flat, it's sought-after, isn't it?

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It is, yeah, and obviously the location that it's in,

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it's not too far away from the bigger city, so it was a good location for him.

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Satisfied that Mr Hall's needs had been met, authorities moved on to

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focus their efforts on the next applicant needing support.

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As far as Duhane Hall was concerned, the case was closed.

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But a full decade later, in September 2015, everything changed.

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Every two years we take part in the national data match that matches

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records from all over the country,

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including tenancy records, benefit records.

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And it was this routine search that threw up something unusual.

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According to the national data match,

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Duhane Hall should never have been placed on the social housing waiting

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list in the first place.

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In fact, he should never even have been in the country.

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According to the Home Office he had made repeated applications to remain

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in the UK, all of which had been rejected.

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It appeared that Duhane Hall had been an illegal UK resident since 2003.

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So, how long was he actually living at that council property for?

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He'd probably been living there almost ten years by this point.

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So, ten years he was living under the radar,

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-basically invisible to the authorities?

-He was, yeah.

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How had Duhane Hall managed to not only remain in the UK,

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but fool Sandwell Council into granting him a one-bedroom property in one of

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the most sought-after areas in the borough?

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Later...

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How does someone know how to do this? In my mind I'm just thinking,

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"It's crazy."

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..the hunt for a conman suggests links with organised crime.

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But it wasn't a case of him just doing it on his own,

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he must have had some kind of help.

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Earlier, we learned how tenancy fraud officers from the Royal Borough of Greenwich

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launched an investigation into 56-year-old Lisa White.

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She claimed to be disabled and living in a one-bedroom property with an elderly mother.

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So, in total she was receiving about £600, £700 per week.

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In various benefits.

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But investigators suspected that Mrs White was actually running a thriving

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business at the Bandstand Kiosk in Broadstairs, Kent.

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To confirm their suspicions,

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fraud investigators set up surveillance in Broadstairs.

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The challenge for counter-fraud investigator Clive Parrish was to capture her on camera.

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So, what had you been told about Mrs White?

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Well, all the information and intelligence we had was that this was a woman who

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was quite severely disabled.

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She didn't go out unless she had a wheelchair and an oxygen tank.

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She could only walk indoors with the aid of a stick.

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That she was very breathless with her asthma

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and some days could barely talk because of it.

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So, you rocked up to this point, this was your, kind of, first surveillance point.

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You've got the kiosk there. What were you expecting to see?

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As soon as we arrived, and from the vantage point at the top we could see

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that there was movement already.

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It all happened, started happening very quickly.

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Clive and his surveillance team began covert filming of the Bandstand Kiosk.

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We got close enough to hear

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the man that was there, who was her husband, call her Lisa and her call him

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by his name, and so we very quickly worked out what we had.

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-And that lady was Mrs White?

-That lady turned out to be Mrs White.

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The footage Clive's team captured was astonishing and proved once and for

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all what investigators suspected.

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Lisa White was leading a double life.

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So, right from the off you're here filming,

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you can see that she is an able-bodied woman.

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Yes, yes.

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Lisa White, supposedly wheelchair-bound and severely disabled,

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seemed to be in good health and able to run a thriving seaside cafe.

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Obviously you reported back to the office,

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they were waiting really with bated breath, weren't they, to see what you had managed to find?

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-What was their reaction to it?

-When we played back the footage, um...

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people where amazed.

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We were in the office here waiting, I certainly was,

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eagerly waiting on the phone to see what they were going to find.

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I wouldn't say there was bets on whether or not she was going to be

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disabled or not, but it was certainly the feeling that it's going to be an interesting day.

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The first day we're down there, if we see her, as to whether she is able to walk or not.

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And it was amazing.

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When they finally called me that day and gave me an update, well,

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I could have fell off the chair, really, because you just don't expect.

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Even though we had a

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really huge inkling that this would be happening,

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you just don't expect someone to be this brazen.

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People just were open-mouthed in disbelief.

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In order to build a case against Mrs White the investigators had to

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demonstrate that her seemingly good health wasn't just a one-off.

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They continued filming and in the days and weeks that followed,

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Clive and the team captured footage of Mrs White walking to and from work,

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serving customers,

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and even visiting a cash-and-carry

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to stock up on supplies for the kiosk.

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All the while claiming thousands in disability benefits.

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It was like we had hit a gold mine

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in terms of what we had hoped to find.

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It was exactly what we had hoped.

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I was outraged, the whole team were outraged,

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this lady has been claiming this money for years and years.

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She is not only getting our money as well,

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she is also getting other money from the state,

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no doubt she was getting all of her prescriptions free.

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Everything else that you get as a disabled person, she was taking those away

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from the genuine people that would get these benefits that are now being cut.

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It was outrageous, really, it really was.

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Later...

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It was just blatant. It's an affront to disabled people.

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..Mrs White attempts to get her hands on a precious social housing property.

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But the investigators are one step ahead of her.

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She came in here as a full-blown actress, she deserved an Oscar

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for that one, I think, really, on that day.

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Earlier, Jamaican Duhane Hall was not only living illegally in the UK,

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but was also granted a social housing property by Sandwell Council.

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He provided documentation from the Home Office explaining he had

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indefinite leave to remain in the United Kingdom. And a passport,

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a Jamaican passport, which was also stamped with indefinite leave

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to remain in the United Kingdom.

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Sandwell Council leader Steve Eling knows the effect

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tenancy fraud can have in an already economically deprived borough.

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There is a significant demand,

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particularly for social housing in Sandwell.

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And what that means is every time we've got people going in tenancies

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fraudulently, they are denying those people who are on the waiting list

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to get a decent-quality permanent home and that can't be right.

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The Home Office had informed Sandwell Council that Duhane Hall's residency

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in the UK had expired ten years earlier.

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Somehow, Mr Hall had managed to fake documentation from a government ministry.

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And we're not sure even now what that letter is and

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whether it's a genuine letter that was amended or whether it's just a completely fake letter.

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We have made enquiries with the Home Office and

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they weren't really sure one way or the other.

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After convincing authorities that he was legally entitled to remain in the UK,

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Duhane Hall applied for social housing.

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He was allocated a one-bedroom property in Oldbury and then set his sights

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on illegally claiming even more benefits.

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But for that, he would need a UK passport.

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The passport itself, it was a genuine passport.

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It was reported lost about four or five years

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prior to Duhane Hall using it.

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How did he manage to doctor it, though?

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The truth is we don't actually know.

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How it ever fell into Duhane Hall's hands we're not sure.

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So, this passport number here is genuine and then he has put his information...

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-Yes, or someone has for him.

-..on top of it.

-Yeah.

-Cos looking at it,

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this requires real skill, it requires knowledge, doesn't it?

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-It does.

-To know, even if you're not doing it yourself, knowing where to go in order to get it done.

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And that's why it was such a determined effort,

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it wasn't a case of him just doing it on his own,

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he must have had some kind of help.

0:20:380:20:41

Obviously there's the possibility that he could've approached an organised crime group.

0:20:410:20:45

If people are willing to pay that money then they will be able to acquire a

0:20:450:20:49

false identity or false identity documents.

0:20:490:20:51

Fake Home Office documents,

0:20:540:20:57

social housing acquired through deception and a doctored passport

0:20:570:21:02

acquired by a man who should have left the country ten years earlier.

0:21:020:21:06

Duhane Hall was guilty of a systematic campaign to deceive Sandwell Council

0:21:060:21:11

and the benefit system in a tenancy fraud on a massive scale.

0:21:110:21:15

What I find baffling is how does someone know how to do this?

0:21:150:21:19

-In my mind I'm just thinking, you know, "It's crazy."

-Yeah.

0:21:190:21:23

And I think it goes to show the level of investment he must have undertaken in

0:21:230:21:27

order to go and get this property in the first place.

0:21:270:21:29

It wasn't just something he stumbled across,

0:21:290:21:31

he was obviously willing to put money and time and investment into it

0:21:310:21:34

in order to go and get that property.

0:21:340:21:36

Armed with a catalogue of illegitimate paperwork,

0:21:360:21:39

Duhane Hall then successfully applied for housing benefit,

0:21:390:21:43

council tax benefit and Jobseeker's Allowance.

0:21:430:21:47

Over a ten-year period,

0:21:470:21:48

Mr Hall received around £180,000 from the public purse.

0:21:480:21:54

And all the while living in a council property obtained by deception.

0:21:540:21:59

It's absolute deliberate fraud,

0:21:590:22:01

this isn't the sort of stuff that comes about because there was a mistake,

0:22:010:22:04

somebody put the wrong date on the form or something,

0:22:040:22:07

this is, you know, absolute deliberate fraud.

0:22:070:22:11

And he got away with it for quite some time.

0:22:110:22:14

Investigators had seen enough.

0:22:140:22:16

It was time to confront this fraudster.

0:22:160:22:19

Obviously, first and foremost what we initially try to do is try and speak to the gentleman.

0:22:190:22:23

Obviously, we haven't got powers of arrest or anything like that, so a lot of the time

0:22:230:22:27

it is by voluntary interview.

0:22:270:22:28

He decided that he didn't want to come in and speak to us...

0:22:280:22:31

I am not surprised. SHE LAUGHS

0:22:310:22:33

In fact, when Duhane Hall learned that the authorities were wise to his deception, he absconded.

0:22:330:22:40

What followed was a six-month investigation to track down the fraudster.

0:22:400:22:45

Obviously, the investigators, they can sort of take this personally, because obviously it's their job

0:22:450:22:49

to try and bring these people to justice, so obviously it's all about trying to track these people down.

0:22:490:22:54

-Where did you find him?

-In this case the gentleman had actually taken out a doorstep loan

0:22:540:22:58

at one point, so it was quite easy to establish where he was at that point in time.

0:22:580:23:02

Once authorities caught up with Duhane Hall he was made to answer for his crimes.

0:23:020:23:08

In court he pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by false representation,

0:23:080:23:13

and was sentenced to three years in jail.

0:23:130:23:15

Sandwell Council has a strong fraud team and there is a message for people

0:23:180:23:22

out there - if you want to commit tenancy fraud don't bother coming here,

0:23:220:23:25

because sooner or later you will be caught.

0:23:250:23:28

After a decade of deception,

0:23:300:23:32

Sandwell fraud investigators were finally able to recover a much-needed property.

0:23:320:23:37

What does this mean for you going forward with that property now?

0:23:370:23:40

We've got the keys back.

0:23:400:23:42

We've now managed to re-let that one out to a gentleman who was in

0:23:420:23:45

desperate need of it, he was on the waiting list and now he's got that property.

0:23:450:23:48

I am guessing now you feel a lot better that you've got the

0:23:480:23:51

property back and it can be used suitably?

0:23:510:23:54

Yeah, that helps to bring our waiting lists down,

0:23:540:23:56

which is what it's all about.

0:23:560:23:58

When Duhane Hall is released from prison he will be deported.

0:23:580:24:01

Wolverhampton in the West Midlands,

0:24:120:24:15

an historic industrial town and one of the pioneering cities for social

0:24:150:24:19

housing development after the First World War.

0:24:190:24:21

Social housing in this part of the UK has suffered in more recent times.

0:24:230:24:27

It's been 30 years since building work on any new council property has taken place.

0:24:270:24:32

But now, just south of the city, the diggers are out once more.

0:24:390:24:42

Wolverhampton Homes lettings manager Pauline Evans is overseeing completion

0:24:440:24:49

of 130 new council properties on the Lanesfield development site.

0:24:490:24:54

This build is looking for completion around mid-September.

0:24:560:24:59

I'll look to advertise these out around June, July.

0:24:590:25:04

There's around 2,500 families who are looking for a

0:25:040:25:09

two-bedroom home like this.

0:25:090:25:11

I expect anything up to 300 bids for every property here.

0:25:110:25:15

So, it's excellent that we've got new builds coming.

0:25:150:25:18

Until those precious new properties come online,

0:25:180:25:21

authorities will have to make the best of their existing housing stock.

0:25:210:25:25

Developments like this high-rise just three miles north of Lanesfield.

0:25:270:25:32

It was here that Wolverhampton Homes counter-fraud manager Elaine Morgan

0:25:320:25:37

had to unravel an unusual deception involving two separate flats on two separate floors.

0:25:370:25:43

That was the position of the upstairs flat.

0:25:470:25:50

-OK.

-This is the stairwell leading to that floor.

0:25:500:25:53

And then as you come down we can see the downstairs flat there.

0:25:530:25:57

I see, so it's a real upstairs-downstairs scenario with this, isn't it?

0:25:590:26:04

Yes, it is.

0:26:040:26:05

In February 2016 the tenants in both flats placed an unusual application

0:26:080:26:13

with Wolverhampton Homes.

0:26:130:26:15

Why did the tenants in these properties contact the council in the first place?

0:26:160:26:22

The reason they contacted the council is because they put

0:26:220:26:26

a request in for a mutual exchange.

0:26:260:26:29

A mutual exchange allows one tenant to swap properties with another.

0:26:290:26:34

The exchange can be between two dwellings within the same local authority

0:26:340:26:38

or even different local authorities anywhere in the UK.

0:26:380:26:42

The only condition is that both parties enter willingly into the exchange

0:26:420:26:46

and are eligible to reside in the exchanged properties.

0:26:460:26:49

In this case the two tenants were neighbours living in the same block.

0:26:490:26:54

The downstairs flat wanted to swap to the upstairs flat and the upstairs flat

0:26:540:26:57

to swap to the downstairs flat.

0:26:570:27:00

There was just one problem.

0:27:000:27:02

The woman occupying the flat upstairs was listed as having at least two children.

0:27:020:27:07

Her flat had two bedrooms.

0:27:070:27:09

Downstairs, a Mr Ahmed Ahmed was listed as living alone.

0:27:110:27:15

His flat had just one bedroom.

0:27:150:27:17

So, that must have started you thinking,

0:27:190:27:21

"Why would a property that's got children in it want to move to a smaller one?"

0:27:210:27:26

Well, if it's got children, why would they want to move to a one-bedroom flat?

0:27:260:27:29

Yeah. And so what was flagged up when you started delving into the case?

0:27:290:27:33

The tenant of the downstairs flat was actually the father of those children.

0:27:330:27:37

Investigations revealed that the two neighbours had become a couple.

0:27:390:27:43

Authorities began to wonder, "If Mr Ahmed was in a relationship with the woman upstairs,

0:27:440:27:50

"was he even living in his own flat?"

0:27:500:27:53

Fraud investigator Louise Humphries began to suspect Mr Ahmed could be in

0:27:530:27:58

breach of his tenancy agreement and possibly guilty of unlawfully

0:27:580:28:02

subletting his flat.

0:28:020:28:03

She decided to confront him face-to-face.

0:28:050:28:08

We asked for Mr Ahmed to come in and have a chat with us and he attended

0:28:080:28:12

an interview and he was just adamant that he did live at that property.

0:28:120:28:16

Investigators were unconvinced and decided to call Mr Ahmed's bluff.

0:28:160:28:21

They asked him to return to his flat where they'd be able to take a

0:28:210:28:24

closer look at his living arrangements.

0:28:240:28:27

He was adamant that he would be able to demonstrate easily to us that he

0:28:280:28:32

was resident, so we asked if we could come over immediately following the

0:28:320:28:38

meeting with him and he could show us what was in the property and he could demonstrate his residency.

0:28:380:28:44

And so how did you end up in this stairwell?

0:28:440:28:46

We left at the same time as Mr Ahmed and we drove here together,

0:28:460:28:51

myself and my colleague.

0:28:510:28:52

We came up onto the landing.

0:28:520:28:54

Mr Ahmed hadn't arrived.

0:28:540:28:58

It was then that Elaine saw something suspicious.

0:28:580:29:02

Whilst waiting for Mr Ahmed to arrive,

0:29:020:29:04

she saw another man leaving the building

0:29:040:29:07

from the direction of Mr Ahmed's property.

0:29:070:29:09

When Mr Ahmed finally arrived and let them into his flat,

0:29:110:29:14

Elaine spotted a photo which raised suspicions.

0:29:140:29:17

And I realised that the male in the photograph - it was a young couple -

0:29:170:29:21

was the male that I had seen.

0:29:210:29:24

So, what were you thinking then?

0:29:240:29:25

Then I started to think that that was the male who was living in the property.

0:29:250:29:29

And when investigators began looking around the flat,

0:29:290:29:32

the evidence suggested that the person living there was Lithuanian.

0:29:320:29:37

These are some of the photographs that we took whilst in the property.

0:29:370:29:42

As you can see, this is of a pregnancy scan and although it's a little bit

0:29:420:29:45

unclear, you can see that there's some writing there.

0:29:450:29:48

We asked Mr Ahmed what it said.

0:29:480:29:50

He wasn't able to tell us.

0:29:500:29:53

Again, we found this, I believe,

0:29:530:29:55

in the kitchen and it's a shopping list, again in another language.

0:29:550:30:00

Which is a language that Mr Ahmed can't speak, so again you're

0:30:000:30:04

thinking, "Why are all these things here?"

0:30:040:30:06

That's right. There was this reading book on top of the fireplace that was

0:30:060:30:09

sort of opened on a page and put down as though someone had been reading

0:30:090:30:14

it and left it behind,

0:30:140:30:15

and, again, he said he couldn't read that language.

0:30:150:30:19

I don't think he could even tell us what the language was that the book was written in.

0:30:190:30:24

He's taking you into his property that he's supposedly living in.

0:30:240:30:27

You're seeing all this evidence around you and he's basically saying,

0:30:270:30:31

-"Well, I don't know."

-Yeah, yeah.

0:30:310:30:33

And I think I even said to him at one stage,

0:30:330:30:35

"Do you really expect us to believe that, you know,

0:30:350:30:38

"these are your things or that nobody else is living here?"

0:30:380:30:42

-But he just didn't have any explanation whatsoever.

-No.

0:30:420:30:46

When you're stood there and he's basically blurting out lie after lie,

0:30:480:30:50

what were you thinking at that point?

0:30:500:30:52

Yeah, it was clearly a lie and everything we asked,

0:30:520:30:54

we asked him to show us his belongings in the property and he wasn't able

0:30:540:30:57

to show us anything in there that belonged to him.

0:30:570:31:00

It was clear somebody was living in there,

0:31:000:31:02

we just didn't believe it was him.

0:31:020:31:04

And when investigators examined Mr Ahmed's bank statements,

0:31:070:31:10

their suspicions were further aroused.

0:31:100:31:13

There was a transaction for Google SpareRoom for a charge of £10.99.

0:31:130:31:18

Google SpareRoom is a website which advertises properties to let.

0:31:180:31:23

The price of £10.99 is the price that you pay to advertise your property,

0:31:230:31:27

so I think it was to advertise for a week and that was the charge.

0:31:270:31:32

The evidence suggested that Mr Ahmed was not living at his flat, and somebody else was.

0:31:320:31:37

The investigators decided to give Mr Ahmed one last chance.

0:31:400:31:44

We offered him the opportunity to terminate his tenancy, because if he'd have done so,

0:31:440:31:49

we wouldn't have taken any further action against him at that stage, but he didn't do that.

0:31:490:31:54

He decided that he would take it to court, so that's what we did.

0:31:540:31:59

Mr Ahmed engaged the services of a barrister and even persuaded the man

0:31:590:32:04

suspected of subletting his flat to testify in civil court.

0:32:040:32:08

But after weighing the evidence,

0:32:080:32:10

the judge awarded in favour of Wolverhampton Homes.

0:32:100:32:14

The judge took all of our evidence in entirety and he awarded us

0:32:140:32:18

possession of the property.

0:32:180:32:20

He stated that he didn't believe any of the evidence that Mr Ahmed had brought

0:32:200:32:24

forward and dismissed all of their evidence.

0:32:240:32:27

Mr Ahmed's tenancy was revoked and the team was able to take back possession of the flat.

0:32:270:32:32

Had he not applied for a mutual exchange,

0:32:340:32:36

there's no telling how long he could have got away with this deception.

0:32:360:32:40

We've now got a one-bedroom flat that we can allocate to somebody else

0:32:400:32:43

who genuinely needs it and not just someone that's going to rent it out.

0:32:430:32:47

There are so many people on our waiting list and social housing

0:32:470:32:51

properties are so sought after and so scarce now that we simply cannot

0:32:510:32:55

afford to sit back and allow that to happen.

0:32:550:32:58

Earlier, we saw how counter-fraud investigators managed to capture

0:33:080:33:12

astonishing footage of 56-year-old Lisa White after she'd claimed to be

0:33:120:33:17

severely disabled and wheelchair-bound.

0:33:170:33:20

I could have fell off the chair, really,

0:33:200:33:22

because you just don't expect someone to be this brazen.

0:33:220:33:25

It was like we'd hit a gold mine.

0:33:250:33:27

The evidence against Mrs White was starting to add up, but what happened

0:33:280:33:32

next took everyone by surprise.

0:33:320:33:34

We was in the middle of the investigation and we didn't do surveillance

0:33:360:33:39

every day, because obviously it's a long period of time,

0:33:390:33:43

so on this one particular day,

0:33:430:33:44

we got an notification that Miss White had been in the building and had

0:33:440:33:48

submitted a housing form to seek housing for herself.

0:33:480:33:52

The team immediately checked the CCTV footage of Mrs White's visit to the council offices.

0:33:520:33:58

What they witnessed was a complete contrast to the Mrs White they had been

0:33:580:34:03

filming over the past few weeks.

0:34:030:34:04

We then had footage of her coming in, supported by her husband,

0:34:100:34:14

barely able to walk.

0:34:140:34:15

She looks as though she's barely able to breathe as well, a lot of head movements.

0:34:150:34:20

She looked dreadful,

0:34:200:34:22

but yet two days later when our team were back out following her around,

0:34:220:34:26

she was almost as fit as a fiddle.

0:34:260:34:29

It was a complete put-on.

0:34:290:34:31

She had come in here to try and get housing which would have been

0:34:310:34:35

specially adapted housing for her needs with her oxygen tank and all the

0:34:350:34:38

other things that she needs to keep her alive, allegedly.

0:34:380:34:41

She would have cost us a fortune.

0:34:410:34:43

She came in here as a full-blown actress.

0:34:430:34:46

She deserved her Oscar for that one, I think, really, on that day.

0:34:460:34:49

Having witnessed her activities in Broadstairs,

0:34:490:34:52

investigators knew that Mrs White's tenancy application was fraudulent.

0:34:520:34:57

I think the only thing that's true on this application is her name.

0:34:570:35:00

The whole thing in this form is completely made up.

0:35:000:35:04

Yeah, complete load of tosh.

0:35:040:35:05

On top of claiming thousands in disability benefits,

0:35:050:35:08

Mrs White was now planning on claiming a council flat to call her own.

0:35:080:35:13

And all courtesy of the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

0:35:140:35:18

But by now, investigators had cast-iron proof that Lisa White already

0:35:180:35:22

owned her own luxury apartment in Broadstairs.

0:35:220:35:25

I mean, this is an ideal setting.

0:35:250:35:27

The building is stunning, it's right on the coast.

0:35:270:35:31

What's it like inside?

0:35:310:35:32

-Describe it to me.

-Well, quite amazing. Very luxurious.

0:35:320:35:35

I mean, the entrance hall,

0:35:350:35:38

it still looks like an old Victorian hotel reception.

0:35:380:35:42

It's really quite beautiful.

0:35:420:35:44

The evidence against Lisa White was irrefutable.

0:35:440:35:47

On 28 September 2015,

0:35:470:35:50

she was arrested at her Grand Mansions apartment on 13 fraud-related charges.

0:35:500:35:56

In the apartment, police found no walking stick or oxygen tank.

0:35:560:36:01

Instead, they discovered more than £5,000

0:36:010:36:05

of unused prescription medicine.

0:36:050:36:09

And when they examined the hard drive on her computer, they also found this.

0:36:090:36:13

MUSIC: All I Want For Christmas by Mariah Carey

0:36:150:36:19

# I don't want a lot for Christmas

0:36:210:36:24

# There is just one thing I need

0:36:240:36:27

# Don't care about the presents underneath the Christmas tree... #

0:36:270:36:33

And just when investigators had thought they'd seen it all.

0:36:330:36:36

It was just blatant that she was running a business down here,

0:36:360:36:40

living a very nice lifestyle and she was moving about very freely and

0:36:400:36:45

wasn't a disabled person.

0:36:450:36:47

She went, "All I want for Christmas," but she had pretty much got everything.

0:36:470:36:50

She'd got her nice little flat in Broadstairs,

0:36:500:36:52

another council flat she thought she was going to get up here,

0:36:520:36:55

her two businesses and a nice £37,000 mobility vehicle,

0:36:550:36:58

so I don't think she needed much more for Christmas that year.

0:36:580:37:01

In the end, it was Lisa White's own greed,

0:37:030:37:06

her attempt to get a council flat, that was to be her undoing.

0:37:060:37:10

So, really, her coming in here,

0:37:100:37:12

technically during the middle of our surveillance,

0:37:120:37:14

was a blessing in disguise, because it just showed the true level of how she

0:37:140:37:19

was pretending to be. It actually couldn't have gone any better.

0:37:190:37:22

By now investigators had been able to fully examine the extent of Mrs White's fraud.

0:37:220:37:28

What they uncovered amounted to a systematic abuse of the

0:37:280:37:31

benefits system stretching back more than six years.

0:37:310:37:35

Mrs White stole, that we could prove, just over £150,000.

0:37:350:37:39

Over a course of a few years she had been on cruises,

0:37:390:37:42

we found evidence she had been on cruises around the world.

0:37:420:37:45

In fact, even after she was arrested by the police and then bailed for

0:37:450:37:48

this, she then went on a £9,000 cruise,

0:37:480:37:51

so she clearly didn't have any remorse at all for the taxpayer that she'd stolen

0:37:510:37:55

from or the people that she may have deprived of the use of a nice

0:37:550:37:58

council property, if she had got the thing.

0:37:580:38:00

So, Ron, you're local to the area.

0:38:000:38:01

What did you think when you heard about the case of Mrs White?

0:38:010:38:05

Well, I thought it was absolutely disgusting. I really did.

0:38:050:38:08

Did she think we owed her something or...?

0:38:080:38:11

I don't know how their minds work

0:38:110:38:14

to be able to do this kind of thing.

0:38:140:38:18

No, I find it really difficult to understand.

0:38:180:38:22

There's somebody there taking money from people who really need it.

0:38:220:38:25

I mean, that's the worst sort as well, when you read the total amount,

0:38:250:38:29

and also being able to go to a van and carry boxes and been seen dancing.

0:38:290:38:35

I would give my right arm to be able to do any of those things.

0:38:350:38:39

No, it makes me feel very, very cross about her.

0:38:390:38:41

On March 2nd 2017,

0:38:410:38:44

after pleading guilty to one of the most shocking cases of benefit and

0:38:440:38:48

attempted tenancy fraud ever witnessed by Greenwich Council,

0:38:480:38:52

Mr and Mrs White faced the judge.

0:38:520:38:53

For his part in the deception Mrs White's husband Andrew received

0:38:580:39:02

a nine-month sentence suspended for two years.

0:39:020:39:06

Lisa White received an 18-month prison term.

0:39:060:39:10

Summing up her fraudulent behaviour, the judge stated...

0:39:100:39:15

You had invested a lot of time in this case to gather up the evidence that you needed.

0:39:270:39:32

On a personal level, aside from being an investigator,

0:39:320:39:35

how did it make you feel?

0:39:350:39:37

Well, it made me think that it's greed and completely unnecessary.

0:39:370:39:41

There were benefits in payment that this lady wasn't entitled to.

0:39:410:39:44

She was claiming to be disabled.

0:39:440:39:47

It's an affront to disabled people.

0:39:470:39:50

To come away knowing that she's now got to reflect on her crime over the

0:39:500:39:53

next few months or 18 months in prison is actually quite a nice feeling.

0:39:530:39:58

Hopefully, it might actually make her think twice about coming out and

0:39:580:40:01

doing the same again.

0:40:010:40:03

If fraud investigators hadn't exposed Lisa White's deception,

0:40:050:40:09

she would have obtained a specially adapted council property while others were left waiting.

0:40:090:40:14

This is Leanna Horne from Bromsgrove in Worcestershire.

0:40:200:40:23

She has first-hand experience of the uncertainty faced by disabled people

0:40:230:40:28

who find themselves on the social housing waiting list.

0:40:280:40:31

-Yeah, that's better.

-Better.

-That is better.

-It felt a lot better.

0:40:330:40:37

Paralympian Leanna represents the UK in club throws, shot putts and discus.

0:40:370:40:42

Fiercely independent, Leanna was living in a privately rented flat,

0:40:420:40:47

but when her tenancy ended abruptly,

0:40:470:40:49

she faced the prospect of having to find somewhere else to live.

0:40:490:40:53

I just thought, you know, "Is somebody having a laugh?

0:40:550:40:58

"Is somebody...is this a joke?"

0:40:580:41:00

But obviously when you're handed a repossession notice you realise it's not a joke.

0:41:000:41:04

Door!

0:41:050:41:06

Dog, dog!

0:41:060:41:08

-Good girl.

-Hello, sweetheart.

0:41:080:41:10

Hello. Hi, how are you?

0:41:100:41:12

Not too bad, thank you. Judy, in you come, darling. Good girl.

0:41:120:41:15

Leanna turned to Jo Rice from the Bromsgrove District Housing Trust for help.

0:41:170:41:22

When I had to go to BDHT,

0:41:220:41:24

that initial phone call, I felt completely defeated.

0:41:240:41:28

I thought I'd let everybody down because I had always been independent

0:41:280:41:33

and done everything myself.

0:41:330:41:34

Eight weeks on and Jo has given Leanna the keys to a new social housing

0:41:340:41:39

property, perfectly suited to her needs.

0:41:390:41:42

To actually be able to find accommodation which is suitable for our

0:41:420:41:47

customers when they have been through quite an anxious journey,

0:41:470:41:50

such as Leanna has been, is just a really good feeling.

0:41:500:41:54

-Are you settled?

-Getting there slowly.

-All sorted?

-Yeah. Getting there slowly.

0:41:540:41:58

It was a huge, huge relief for me.

0:41:580:42:00

I suddenly know that I'm safe, I'm secure

0:42:000:42:04

and nobody can take this away from me.

0:42:040:42:06

Leanna has cerebral palsy, so requires specially adapted accommodation.

0:42:100:42:15

Because of the opportunities afforded by social housing,

0:42:150:42:18

she now has everything she needs to lead a truly independent life.

0:42:180:42:22

-Do you want to have a look in the bedroom, what they've done with the hoist?

-Yeah, fabulous.

0:42:220:42:26

Yeah, so they managed to use the same tracking as well...

0:42:260:42:28

-That's really good.

-..from my old property,

0:42:280:42:31

so it kept the cost down, but it also made it quicker for them to get it in,

0:42:310:42:34

which is obviously the main thing, cos if I can't get in and out of

0:42:340:42:37

-bed, it's a bit difficult.

-That's really good.

0:42:370:42:39

If I look back to the beginning when this was kind of dropped on me,

0:42:390:42:43

I couldn't see a way out, and then to suddenly look at this now,

0:42:430:42:47

it does seem almost like a fairy tale.

0:42:470:42:49

This is the end result. This is the best result that's possible,

0:42:490:42:53

when somebody comes in to you with housing need.

0:42:530:42:55

They're in crisis and to be able to help people is really important to me.

0:42:550:43:00

It makes my job worthwhile.

0:43:000:43:02

I still can't believe it and every morning I pinch myself and go,

0:43:020:43:05

"This is my home now."

0:43:050:43:07

Leanna's determination to lead an independent life is truly inspiring and

0:43:070:43:12

it's for people like her that housing investigators will continue in their

0:43:120:43:16

relentless fight to reclaim properties from tenancy cheats and give them

0:43:160:43:20

to people who really need them.

0:43:200:43:23