Series looking at benefit fraud. The case of the two scamming sisters who used a fake identity to steal tens of thousands of pounds from the British public.
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Welcome to Saints And Scroungers, the show that exposes benefit thieves, cheats and liars.
But it does also unearth the people that genuinely need help.
This is the front line in the battle against benefit fraud.
Saints and Scroungers is all about busting benefit thieves who steal millions every year
and the crack teams of investigators determined to scupper their devious scams.
We also shine a light on the saints, people committed to putting money
into the pockets of those who deserve it and the people too proud to claim what is rightfully theirs.
And coming up on today's programme,
two scrounging sisters, one stolen identity
and enough cash to lord it up in limos.
Clearly this family had access to money
and were not afraid to spend it.
And saintly intervention for the homeless.
You don't want to be helped. You don't feel as though you deserve it.
You know, as an A-list celebrity, I could get quite used to this lifestyle.
Being chauffeured around in a limousine like this, sipping on the old bubbly.
But if I was living and working in this country illegally whilst claiming benefits,
I'd be a little bit more discreet. You know, keep my head down, keep a low profile.
But that's not what two sisters thought. Oh, no.
Meet Ugandan sisters Yudaya and Racheal,
who lived in the UK for over a decade.
They passed themselves off as model citizens.
But in fact, they were living a double life,
operating under the same stolen identity
which they'd taken from an innocent third sister
and were using to steal jobs and tens of thousands from the British public.
And it would be a video camera, bought with their stolen cash,
that would ultimately lead to their downfall.
It all began back in 1997, when one of the sisters,
Yudaya Nassolo, visited the UK from Uganda.
Problem is, she never went home.
Yudaya set about applying for a permanent visa.
While it was processed, she wasn't legally allowed to work.
And as she didn't have a penny to her name,
she was entitled to benefits,
so she turned to Croydon Council for help.
We were paying her entire rent, her council tax, utility bills.
She was provided with food vouchers and a basic amount to spend to live on.
Remember, this was someone who came to the UK as a visitor.
Now she was living off state handouts.
But the help didn't end there.
So also claimed to have a serious illness,
entitling her to additional support from social services.
Because of this illness that she had,
she was meant to receive regular care and visits from social workers.
They had real difficulty getting into that house.
They called round on a regular basis, but it was very hard to get past the front door.
Social services were getting concerned about Yudaya's welfare.
But after months and months of trying to get inside the property,
the social workers finally got lucky.
At a point in time, when they did gain access to the property,
what they actually saw was a lifestyle that was way beyond the person we were supporting.
Now, remember, this was a woman supposedly living in poverty.
But what the social workers saw was a whole host of luxury goods,
including a large plasma TV and expensive leather settees.
Social services were immediately suspicious
that Yudaya might be supplementing her benefits by working illegally.
So they contacted Croydon Council's fraud team.
And David Hogan immediately launched a full-scale investigation.
We thought, "Yeah, something clearly is wrong with this"
and we decided to use some surveillance
to try to work out really what she was doing,
because we weren't entirely sure at this point how she was managing to live above her means.
Council fraud investigation units have access to crack teams
trained in undercover techniques and I've arranged a meeting
with the man in charge of the stake out of Yudaya Nassolo.
Andy, you were one of the investigating officers in the case. Tell me about the surveillance.
It was crucial, cos we had this allegation that she may be working,
-so we needed to have her followed.
-What did the investigators find?
They found her going to two places. One was South Bank University
-down at the Elephant and Castle.
-Was she studying there?
-Our enquiries found out, yes, she was studying to get a nursing qualification.
And she received a bursary from the NHS to do that.
A bursary is a chunk of money they give you and you don't pay it back.
That's what I understand, yes. They give it to staff to get trained up
and in this case, she received just under £18,000.
-OK. I wasn't expecting it to be that high.
-It's very costly training.
-What else was she up to?
They found her going to a nursing home in Wallington
and our enquiries there found that she was working as a care assistant.
OK, you've got this woman claiming benefits, she's training as a nurse,
she's getting a government payout for the training,
-she's also working as a care assistant.
-She's certainly not destitute, is she?
Shocking stuff. Yudaya might have been entitled to benefits
but she had no legal right to work,
let alone be claiming an NHS bursary.
My question is, how on earth was she getting away with it?
She was using two identities.
She presented herself to the council to get assistance
in the name Yudaya Nassolo.
-She was using the identity of a Zam Zam Nagujja to get work
and to claim the NHS bursary.
Andy had cracked it. Yudaya was using her real name
to claim thousands in benefits
and the stolen identity of Zam Zam Nagujja
to work and claim the NHS bursary.
Now that we had identified the bursary,
we realised there were funds being paid by the NHS,
so we brought in their own fraud unit to work in partnership with us.
Colin Edwards is the NHS counter-fraud specialist
who took up the case.
I made enquiries with the NHS bursaries department
and we did discover that a person by the name of Zam Zam Nagujja
was indeed claiming an NHS bursary.
So Colin and David decided the next step was to pay South Bank University a visit
to see if they could unearth any more information about this mysterious Zam Zam.
We met with the head administrator
who was very, very cooperative in providing us with a copy of the student file
and we found that the documents held on that file caused some concerns.
What had caught the investigator's eye was a photocopy of a Ugandan passport
in the name Zam Zam Nagujja,
complete with a Home Office stamp granting leave to remain in the UK.
Investigator Andy Lang may have had intelligence Yudaya was posing as Zam Zam
but the passport on file at the university looked genuine.
So what was going on?
David and myself agreed that we would pursue the case
and we contacted the immigration service.
Tina Lyonette works for the UK Border Agency.
After hearing a little about the case, she agreed to meet.
The team's first task
was to establish once and for all that Zam Zam and Yudaya were one and the same.
So Colin presented Tina with the passport photo of Zam Zam
he'd retrieved from South Bank University.
Having the photograph
allowed us to compare our records with the records held with the immigration service
and that Tina Lyonette was able to bring with her to our first meeting.
Snap. The photos were clearly taken years apart,
but they are categorically the same person,
which means that Yudaya is posing as Zam Zam
and the passport held on the university file must be a fake.
Now all three agencies were convinced they were dealing with a case of identity theft
and that Yudaya Nassolo had somehow obtained a Ugandan passport
in the name of Zam Zam.
Between the three of us,
we felt that there was a strong enough case to pursue further.
But investigators needed more solid evidence
and Andy Lang's surveillance team were still hard at it.
What else did you uncover that surprised you?
She was driving around in a car when they followed her to the nursing home,
-and we did checks on the vehicle. The car was registered to the name Racheal Thorn.
-Who was that?
Andy explains that Racheal Thorn is, in fact, Yudaya's sister
and the owner of the car Yudaya is driving around in.
But there was another shock in store.
We've since found out that Racheal Thorn was also working in this country
under the name Zam Zam Nagujja.
Hold your horses a minute. So we've already got one sister, Yudaya,
posing as Zam Zam. Now Andy had discovered that her sister, Racheal,
was also working under the same pseudonym.
-She was also using the false identity. There were two of them using the same identity.
The case was expanding in scale. Now the hunt was on for the sister, Racheal.
If they were going to get to the bottom of this scam,
they had to find her.
After a huge trawl through public records,
investigators tracked down a Zam Zam Nagujja
working for a catering department at Sutton Hospital.
Could this be the sister Racheal or was Yudaya moonlighting here, too?
the true extent of the sisters' deception is revealed.
From the scroungers ripping off the system to the people we call our saints,
those individuals who help put money into the pockets of people in genuine need
and the people who are too proud or simply don't know how to claim what is rightfully due to them.
Most of us take having a roof over our head for granted.
But for some, living on the streets is a reality. And it's tough.
A homeless charity in Kent called Porchlight is on a mission.
The main aim is to get people who are homeless,
take them out of the situation, find them appropriate accommodation,
help turn their lives around, because sometimes all they need is
that step on the ladder to do so.
But Neil is all too aware that just putting a roof over someone's head isn't always enough.
Unfortunately, with homelessness, there's no quick solution. We have to look at the long-term picture.
Two-month or three-month segments would not be very productive
and it could create more problems that it helps.
OK. So at this charity, the focus is on long-term support.
All well and good, but how does it work exactly?
First things first, we would find someone,
identify the fact that they are homeless,
then we'd try and look for somewhere appropriate for them to stay,
but also making sure that they're getting the correct benefits.
The next step is to look at confidence building
through organised group activities and voluntary work.
Once they feel comfortable enough to move onto the next step, we look at some kind of employment.
One couple whose lives have been forever changed by the charity are Carlton and Sue.
Five years ago, Carlton relocated from Liverpool to Kent to set up home with Sue.
But she soon realised there was a problem.
Quite soon after we met, I could tell there were things
that weren't quite right, in terms of there wasn't a job.
But then, gradually, I could just recognise about the addictions.
Things like the cans lying around when I'd come back at 3:30 in the afternoon
and thinking, "Hold on a minute, that's a bit early"
and just the mood swings were quite obvious, as well.
Carlton finally confessed to Sue he was an alcoholic.
The situation at home then quickly deteriorated.
Sometimes it got quite... uncomfortable, quite scary.
I did become quite fearful. Fearful that if I didn't please him, then he would get angry,
so it was tiptoeing around, making sure I was doing everything right. And the awful thing was,
whatever I did, it wasn't right. It's only now I understand that's the disease of alcoholism.
Carlton's drinking was increasing. So was his aggressive behaviour.
Sue knew something had to change.
Love really wasn't the be all and end all at that point.
It was actually about safety. Physical safety, emotional wellbeing, for all three of us.
So the decision was that we would part company.
Carlton felt he had no choice but to join the ranks of the homeless,
and he began sleeping rough in the seaside town of Ramsgate.
Once you found yourself living out there on the street, just how bad did things get?
It got really bad, you know.
I had no money. The depression got worse.
You're on a downward slope. You're thinking, "How did I get here? What am I going to do?"
You've got no prospects. You've got no hope.
Many nights, you just drink so much that your body numbs up,
so you don't feel the cold.
Carlton had reached rock bottom. Then a visit marked the beginning of a new journey.
I remember, one morning, this gentleman walking over to me with his little rucksack on,
and I can remember just looking at him and thinking, "Don't come near me. Go away."
I didn't know what he wanted or who he was.
The man was an outreach worker and, undeterred by Carlton's initial rejection of help,
he continued to visit.
To have somebody there that took an interest in you
and really showed some compassion, it was strange.
It was very hard to trust that person.
Because they were very determined and kept coming back,
it broke down a few of my barriers and I started to open up.
Getting people off the streets is only half the solution when it comes to homelessness.
In here is where the real hard work starts.
I've come to the hostel that took Carlton in to meet his key worker, Jill Smith.
-When Carlton came here, how bad were his problems?
He was in a very bad way. He was extremely depressed,
he was drinking very heavily
as a result of all the things that had been happening to him.
He had lost his job, he had lost his relationship,
he had lost the roof over his head.
He didn't really know which way to turn at that point.
Carlton's key worker arranged for him to get professional help with his addiction
and after six months, he was sober.
Next, Carlton started the charity's employability training programme
to help prepare him for the workplace.
I learnt lots of things on presentations, communication, interview techniques,
but the main thing that I got from the course
was interaction with other people again
and it gave me the self-belief that I had something valuable to offer other people.
And this ability to offer something back to others didn't go unnoticed by the Porchlight team.
We started looking at a scheme that was starting up within Porchlight
where they were taking on trainees to train them in the work
and he seemed an ideal candidate for it.
The training in question was to become a youth leader,
educating children in the issues relating to homelessness.
The education programme appealed to me,
going out, speaking to young adults in the schools,
giving something back,
hopefully letting the kids learn from my experience.
So I went for that position and, fortunately, I got it.
It's really great to see Carlton now, because he's come full circle.
In the last, perhaps, three or four months, he's just excelled.
He's exceedingly competent at what he does
and he's very clear and concise with the young people we work with and he's got a story to tell.
A lot of homeless people are crazy. Is that true or false?
To see people go from that starting point
of living in one of our hostels to now working for us and delivering services is really gratifying.
-How do you feel for what you've achieved with Carlton?
It's a privilege to help people turn their lives around. There's nothing else like it.
-Do you love your job?
-I do. Yeah, I do. I do.
Without the support I got from Porchlight...
..I would never have been in the position I am now.
I always thought and believed in him, that one day he would get better, and that day has come now.
I'm 11 months sober. I've still got issues to face, but now I can face them head on with confidence,
and a brighter future.
From the saints back to the scroungers.
Every year in the UK, over a billion pounds is lost to benefit fraud.
That's enough to pay for 40,000 NHS nurses.
But those who commit the crime should always be prepared to do the time.
A massive multi-agency investigation is underway.
The UK Border Agency, Croydon Council and the NHS
are closing in on two scrounging sisters operating
under the same stolen identity, Zam Zam Nagujja.
Investigators had already tracked down one sister, Yudaya,
posing as Zam Zam working illegally as a nurse
while claiming £137,000 in benefits.
With Yudaya firmly fixed on the fraud team's radar,
they now needed to locate her sister, Racheal,
and they had a very hot lead.
They'd identified a person working under the name of Zam Zam
at a catering company.
At first, we weren't quite sure if they were the same person,
so we arranged to go and meet the manager of the catering unit
where we posed as two prospective clients.
Sneaky, but I like it. And it paid off.
By meeting this Zam Zam face to face,
they were able to confirm this was Yudaya's married sister, Racheal Thorn.
So here we had two sisters
that have come into the UK from Uganda, they were using the same identity,
the identity of Zam Zam Nagujja, and had used this successfully to get into the system.
But was Zam Zam Nagujja a real person or a figment of the sisters' imagination?
The name Zam Zam Nagujja actually is a real person.
In fact, when we did some checks,
the real Zam Zam had been at university in Manchester in the '90s.
And there was another surprise in store.
Because it turns out that Zam Zam Nagujja
is related to Yudaya and Racheal.
In fact, she was a third sister. But an entirely innocent one,
oblivious that her ID had been stolen and tampered with
and was being used by members of her own family to extract money from the UK.
And boy, oh, boy, as this home video footage shows,
Yudaya and Racheal knew how to splash the cash.
After a year of hard graft pooling information,
investigators were ready to act.
It's time to take this pair of scrounging sisters down.
And in 2008, Yudaya and Racheal were placed under arrest.
It was very important that we actually put a stop to this once and for all.
With the sisters under lock and key,
investigators were given the green light to search Yudaya's property.
We found evidence of identity documents,
bank accounts in the name Zam Zam Nagujja,
and, interestingly, numerous money transfers back to Kampala.
-Are we talking about large sums?
-They were significant sums of money.
I can't give you the actual values off the top of my head, but it was considerable amounts,
and we believe, because the search also found pictures of the family
standing in newly built properties over in Kampala,
so we think she was sending money home to fund those properties.
If that's right, us as taxpayers have bought her and her family
-a house in Uganda.
-That's got to hurt. It hurts me.
It hurts us, as well. That's why we investigate these and hope that we can catch these people.
The team didn't only find cash transfers to Uganda.
They found forged documents and bank account details
showing significant savings.
The other thing we found that was quite interesting
was some home videos. They showed the lifestyle they were living.
There was one video where a stretch limousine had been hired.
The video showed them inside the stretch limousine
opening champagne, laughing.
They were very happy with the circumstances they were in.
There is pictures of them having extravagant Christmas presents.
Clearly, this family had access to money
and were not afraid to spend it.
And this, of course, was in clear contrast
to how she presented to the council. This was, after all, somebody who
was meant to be living on food stamps,
who received a cash allowance just to take care of her bare subsistence.
And, clearly, the two just didn't align.
After two years and the combined efforts of three agencies,
investigators now had both sisters under arrest
and all the evidence they needed to put this scrounging pair
in front of a judge.
So, basically, you had them bang to rights, two people working,
-both using false identities in this country.
-Filtering money out.
Yep. Stealing off the public purse. It was a long investigation, but worth it.
In 2009, the sisters were summoned to court to face the prosecution.
Racheal Thorn received numerous charges, including entering the UK by deception,
obtaining wages by deception and using a false identity.
Despite the weight of evidence against her,
Racheal pleaded not guilty.
But on 6th July, 2009,
a jury found her guilty and she was sentenced to 21 months behind bars,
to be followed by immediate deportation.
Her sister, Yudaya, was in even bigger trouble.
She faced more charges, including possession of false documents,
obtaining advantage by deception,
making false representations
and three charges of conspiring to enter the UK illegally.
Knowing her card was well and truly marked,
Yudaya pleaded guilty and was subsequently thrown into jail for three years,
after which she, too, will be on a one-way trip back to Uganda.
This was a very big case for us here in Croydon.
It spanned a long time, it was high value,
so we're extremely pleased with the outcome
and it shows you how, when agencies get together, how much more effective we can be.
Well, I don't think that pair of scrounging sisters
are going to be sipping champagne for quite some time now.
Unless they serve it in jail, which I doubt very much.
Now, where shall I go to lunch?
Oysters at The Ivy, I think. Yeah.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
Dominic Littlewood presents a series looking at the work of fraud investigators searching out benefit thieves and meets the people they are stealing from - the genuine claimants.
Dominic presents the case of the two scamming sisters who used a fake identity to steal tens of thousands of pounds from the British public, and meets an organisation on a mission to help the homeless get off the streets and back into life.