Beddows and Godbold Saints and Scroungers


Beddows and Godbold

Series looking at benefit fraud. A divorcee from Margate gets benefits to pay the rent. But a tip-off suggests there is more to her relationship with her landlord than business.


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Transcript


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Billions of pounds' worth of our taxes should be going to the most needy.

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Trouble is, people keep stealing it.

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Welcome to the world of Saints and Scroungers.

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Saints and Scroungers puts the spotlight on benefit thieves who ruthlessly steal

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millions of pounds every year from the British taxpayer.

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And we search out the saints who help put unclaimed cash into the hands of those that need it.

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And coming up on today's programme...

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The tenant on benefits who claims there's nothing going on with her landlord,

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although the holiday snaps tell a different story.

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You wouldn't expect a normal landlord to be holidaying with their tenant.

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And we meet the saint who has transformed the lives of over 500 Parkinson's sufferers.

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I can just sit there and listen, and sometimes that can be

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as valuable to them as taking any kind of medication.

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Photographs - they're pretty important memories.

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They capture things like births, weddings and holidays.

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Sometimes they even capture things you'd rather they didn't.

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But surely if you were a benefit cheat, you wouldn't take

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photos of yourself enjoying your ill-gotten gains, would you?

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Or would you?

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Meet Marina Beddows, a 54 year-old divorcee who lives in Margate.

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She's genuinely disabled.

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She has diabetes and, after a stroke a few years ago, has problems getting around.

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So she gets £500 a week in benefits.

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Some of that money is because of her disability but some of it

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is because she's living alone and needs help to pay the rent.

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Colin Godbold is her landlord.

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He's 57, works for a coach company and also lives in Margate.

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Their relationship is strictly professional.

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Well, that's at least what they told the benefit officers, anyway.

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But an anonymous tip-off to the Department for Work and Pensions suggests that Marina and Colin

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are living together as a couple, which means she's claiming more than £70,000 she's not entitled to.

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Steve Tamsett, Fraud Service, can I help you?

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Steve Tamsett is senior fraud manager at the Department for Work and Pensions in Kent.

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Our attention was first brought to Marina Beddows and Colin Godbold

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as a result of an anonymous allegation to our benefit fraud hotline

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that Marina was not in fact renting a property from Beddows as a tenant,

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but they were in fact maintaining the household as a couple.

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Having received that information, we'll investigate all such allegations.

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Over £74 million worth of taxpayers' money is lost to what's called "living-together fraud" every year.

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It's the most common benefit scam of all, and it happens when two people who live together as a couple

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pretend they live apart so that either or both of them can claim benefits as a single person.

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This is what the anonymous tip-off was claiming Colin Godbold and Marina Beddows were doing.

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What we'd be looking for in this investigation, as Marina was

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claiming as a single person, to see really whether she was maintaining a relationship with Colin Godbold.

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By that we mean that there was some sharing of premises, sharing of responsibilities,

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sharing of financial commitments, and some relationship which is a

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long-term basis where they're going to share a life together.

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At the same time that the DWP were looking into Beddows and Godbold,

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Thanet Council were also running their own independent investigation.

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Counter fraud manager Andy Croucher was sharing information with Steve's

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team at the DWP to get to the bottom of what was going on.

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The difficulty with this case was in establishing the relationship between Mr Godbold and Mrs Beddows,

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and that that was something beyond a friendship or a landlord and tenant relationship.

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Marina Beddows was on record as living on her own in a house in Margate.

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She'd suffered from a stroke fairly early in life, and the disability was primarily that she wasn't mobile

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enough to walk any distance or to take care of herself.

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I believe she was also suffering from diabetes.

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Marina was entitled to some financial help because of her disability.

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But as a woman on her own who wasn't able to work, she could also claim

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help to pay the rent, council tax benefit and income support.

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So in total, she received £500 a week.

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Colin Godbold was on record as being Marina's landlord.

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He owned the house she lived in but claimed not to live there,

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and had a steady job working for a coach company.

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But if the two were living as a couple, Marina Beddows would only have been entitled to the

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benefits for her disability, not her housing benefit, council tax benefit or income support.

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So both the DWP and Thanet Council spring into action

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and start digging for evidence of a secret relationship.

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The team were building up a bundle of evidence relating to whether they had bank accounts,

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what ones they held jointly, what ones they held separately,

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looking at the bills relating to the property,

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who was responsible for paying them, work records for Mr Godbold and who his next of kin were declared to be.

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Several pieces of information go to building up a picture that a normal person would consider

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relevant and would point towards a couple being more a couple than just friends.

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The council possessed letters from Colin Godbold stating that he was charging Marina Beddows £95 a week.

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He lived at a different address, so everything seemed above board.

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But when the team checked out their bank accounts, it told a different story.

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We did establish that they were running joint bank accounts.

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Joint bank accounts? That's pretty unusual for a landlord and tenant.

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Sounds to me like there's a little bit more to this relationship than they were letting on.

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Investigators thought so, too.

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Having established that there was some truth in the allegation,

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we then undertook some undercover surveillance of the property.

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We'd have investigators sitting outside the property at all times of the day

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just to see who was coming and going from the property and at what times.

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The key things that our surveillance established was that Colin Godbold was at the property

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on a pretty regular basis and seemed to be moving around and conducting activities

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on the basis more of a couple than just a landlord.

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But Colin wasn't just spending a lot of time in the house.

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He was also clocking up the hours in Marina's car, which was paid for by her disability benefits.

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As I understand it, Marina Beddows had a car that she was using to help her with her mobility

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and that Colin Godbold was driving it quite frequently, which rather

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puts doubt on the suggestion that he was just a landlord.

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In fact Colin was using the car to get to work from Monday to Friday.

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But when the team followed him on some of his other journeys

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they also discovered that Colin was taking Marina's housing benefit cheques to the bank.

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He'd then withdraw the money from a cash machine.

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There was also some evidence that they were taking holidays together.

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These are details of holidays that were bought by Mrs Beddows.

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There's evidence to show in this booking that the couple booked into one room only.

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The investigators were building up all this evidence from a distance,

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with Beddows and Godbold completely unaware they were being watched.

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But all that was about to change.

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Once we had the evidence, we were in a position to authorise

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a police arrest at the property so we could search and seize any documents

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or other evidence that was there that would lend support to the fact that their relationship

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wasn't landlord of tenant but that they were in fact maintaining the household as a couple.

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Coming up, a police raid on a property provides the investigators with plenty of evidence.

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Male shirts, all male shirts...

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Next, it's farewell fraudsters and hello to the innocent people...

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our Saints...

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..those who are in genuine need of help but are too proud

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or don't know how to claim what's due to them,

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and their saintly helpers who point them in the right direction.

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Every hour, someone in the UK is told they've got Parkinson's disease.

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It's a condition that can cause shaking, involuntary movement

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or make you freeze up, and there's no known cure.

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Losing your mobility can also mean losing your independence.

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Fortunately, there are people out there who provide much-needed support.

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It's often the hardest-working people who go unnoticed, the sort of silent hero

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who doesn't do it for the money or the recognition but does it because they enjoy helping people.

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Nick Ephgrave is one of these people.

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He started working for Parkinson's UK two years ago.

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He drives around London making visits to some of the 500 people with Parkinson's on his list.

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I'm seeing a great range of people in their own home environment,

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and obviously I can see how people are coping.

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The first person Nick is off to see today is Michaela.

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She's had Parkinson's for 11 years.

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Michaela Graham-Yooll comes from Argentina

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but moved to England in 1976 with her husband and three children.

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Sadly, in 1996, her marriage ended and she's had to sell her family home.

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It was while she was moving out that she first noticed something was wrong.

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I started shaking.

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I thought it was something that, it was just to do with nerves,

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because I had a week's time to empty the whole house.

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After about a month or so,

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she decided to see a doctor, and after a lot of tests I think

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she was told she had Parkinson's disease.

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Last year, Michaela took a turn for the worse and had to go to hospital, with disastrous consequences.

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With Parkinson's, it's important to take pills

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at exact times of the day, and at home, Michaela had managed to do this.

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But it staff at the hospital decided to give out her pills while on their medical rounds,

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so they did not always come when Michaela needed them.

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And I got much worse while I was in hospital.

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Luckily, Michaela's daughter, Ines, found out about Parkinson's UK,

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and got in touch with Nick, who came to the rescue.

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She was not in a good state when I met her.

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She felt that she was kind of trapped in the hospital because she wasn't getting her medication,

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she wasn't having the proper movement she'd been used to,

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and one of the things that was happening

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was she was finding it difficult to get up to go to the loo, so she'd been placed in nappies.

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It was really quite insulting to her to be treated like that.

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She was treated as a geriatric who didn't have full control over her movements.

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We decided that the best thing to do would be to get her home as soon as possible

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and put some Social Services care

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in place until she felt well enough to be able to carry on on her own.

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The car is just up here.

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From this point on, Michaela knew she had a champion.

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For Michaela, getting less steady on her feet led to her feeling increasingly isolated.

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That is one reason why I'm going out less and less, because I'm really insecure.

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I'm scared of falling.

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But Michaela didn't just have to deal with being alone.

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She was also struggling for money.

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Apparently I was due a pension.

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I filled in the forms and sent them in, and then something was missing, so I had to start all over again.

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I think when people look at the forms

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that need to be filled in, they just seem such a mountain to climb.

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When I spoke to Mickey about her pension,

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she said that somebody from the Pensions Service had helped her before,

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but the forms had got lost in the post and they weren't giving her any follow-up help,

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so she felt she wasn't able to fill in the forms herself and then just let it go.

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I came along and contacted the Pension Service,

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got the appropriate forms and started the whole process again.

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He filled in forms for me.

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He was more effective than I had been. Other people tried to help me.

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Nick successfully secured Michaela her pension

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and four years of backdated payments on top.

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But still, he went further.

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He got her a taxi card, which gets her a cheap ride so she can do her errands.

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But it's the personal touch that means the most to people Nick helps.

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Today, he's taking Michaela to a specialist Pilates class

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for people who suffer with Parkinson's.

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The important thing is that Nick has given her independence.

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She's getting out, not feeling isolated.

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He does his work, but goes beyond what his job is, I think.

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Fraud investigators in Kent suspect that

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Colin Godbold and Marina Beddows are living together as a couple.

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There's nothing wrong with that, unless, of course, one of you

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is claiming over £70,000 in benefits that you're not entitled to.

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Godbold and Beddows were totally unaware

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that the Department for Work and Pensions and Thanet Council were investigating.

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But they were soon about to get a very early morning wake-up call.

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The fraud team were planning a police arrest and house search at 7am.

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They were hoping to catch both Marina and Colin unaware.

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The element of surprise is important,

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because there can be opportunities to come forward with different stories.

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Or indeed, to destroy the evidence that would be important to us.

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So the police arrest is a good opportunity to establish the truth

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and see exactly what's going on at the property.

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First thing in the morning, a crack team from the police,

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the DWP and Thanet Council assembled at the house

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to see if they could catch out the suspected scammers.

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On the team was a Thanet Council fraud investigator.

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Because of the covert nature of her work, we've disguised her identity.

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On the day of arrest, we met at the local police station in Margate

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at about 6 o'clock.

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We then proceeded to the property.

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Upon arriving at the property, the door was opened by Mr Godbold,

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who said that his wife was upstairs in bed, at which point Mrs Beddows

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proceeded to open an upstairs window and call down,

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asking Mr Godbold what was going on.

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His wife?

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There's a big difference between referring to someone as your tenant or your friend,

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and calling them your wife.

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The fact Mrs Beddows was upstairs and Mr Godbold answered the door

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confirmed our suspicions that they were living there as a couple.

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It was 7am. There wasn't any need for Mr Godbold to be there at that time.

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He was just getting himself ready to go to work.

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It looks like they'd caught the cheats with their pants down.

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Now they've just got to prove that this isn't just a one-off

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and that the two are living together long term.

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So a painstaking search is carried out.

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This is a police video of the search.

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It builds up a picture of what the living arrangements are

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in the property, whether they support the allegation

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that's made against the couple or whether it supports

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their own view that they're not a couple.

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Male shirts.

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All male shirts.

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Dirty basket on the landing.

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Looks like a bloke's clothing there.

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If there's an indication that there's a man living in the household,

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it's not a one-off encounter, that he's stopped overnight,

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it's clear from that that it's a fairly long-term arrangement.

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Electric shaver.

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His toiletries are in the bathroom, suggesting he's living there on a permanent basis.

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The police searched the house from top to bottom,

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and they found Marina's will,

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which included Colin Godbold as a beneficiary.

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They also found evidence that Marina wasn't as hard up as you might expect.

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During the arrest, there were two envelopes found in the property.

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One had £1,400 and the other had approximately 1,200 in.

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One of them had written on it "Marina's Holiday Fund".

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£1,400, 1,200?

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That's a lot of money to have lying around the house.

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It looks like Colin and Marina have a few pounds to spare.

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But what the police found next takes the biscuit -

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photos and video footage

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of one of the couple's luxury holidays in Orlando

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and casino capital of the world, Las Vegas.

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After the search, Marina and Colin were taken to Margate police station for questioning.

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On the day, as I understand it, Marina was not well enough

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to undertake the interview, but that was a judgment for the police

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and she was interviewed on the next day.

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But Colin Godbold was interviewed by himself,

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just to see what he had to say about these matters that we'd discovered.

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During the interview, Colin admitted that he lived at the house with Marina more than he had let on,

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which was why his bank accounts and driving licence were registered there.

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But when Colin had written letters to the council as Marina's landlord,

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they'd always been from a different address.

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The interview provided a breakthrough for the team,

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because Colin admitted he was living with Marina Beddows

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on a nearly full time basis.

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But when they called in Marina for interview six days later,

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she was insistent that there was nothing going on,

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even though Colin had referred to her as his wife.

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They claimed their relationship wasn't that of a couple,

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and that Colin was looking after Marina because of her disabilities

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and there was no relationship other than landlord and tenant.

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But although Colin had also denied they were a couple,

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the picture he painted of their life suggested otherwise.

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On the basis of the evidence, Marina's benefits were stopped.

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You'd think if fraud investigators had surveillance footage of you,

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photos of you on holiday together,

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and you'd been caught in the act defrauding the system,

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you'd hold your hands up in the air, say, "All right, it's a fair cop."

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But not Marina. She wasn't prepared to give up her benefits without a fight.

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Following the arrest and the interviews under caution

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and the benefit decision

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in which we established that there was an overpayment

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and the couple were treated as living together,

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Mrs Beddows pursued her right of appeal against that decision.

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The appeal went to a tribunal.

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All the evidence was collected up,

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witnesses called and a statement issued in which Beddows stated

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that they had never been members of the same household,

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and that the four joint accounts they shared were just to make her life easier.

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I was surprised that Mrs Beddows had appealed,

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having been aware of the amount of evidence

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the authority had gathered in support of the decision that it had made.

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Throughout the course of the tribunal,

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she was adamant that there was no relationship between them.

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It did seem strange that she was sticking to her original story.

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At the tribunal, all the evidence was laid out.

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The discovery of Colin's stuff throughout the house during the search.

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Male shirts,

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all male shirts.

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Colin referring to Marina as his wife.

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The shared holiday.

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The joint bank accounts.

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And Colin's use of Marina's car for work.

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They even called in an ex-carer

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who alleged that she had seen Colin and Marina in bed together.

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Sometimes people explore every avenue available to them.

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There was a possibility that the tribunal may decide in her favour.

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In my experience, given the evidence that we had,

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that was always going to be unlikely.

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The appeal at the tribunal failed.

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The next stop for the couple was court,

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and a date was set for February 2010 at Canterbury Crown Court.

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The system was defrauded to the extent of £70,000 on income support,

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housing benefit and council tax benefit.

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This money really is due to people who are properly entitled to it,

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the most vulnerable in society.

0:25:220:25:24

So £70,000 were stolen from people who should have received this money.

0:25:240:25:29

But Colin Godbold and Marina Beddows didn't get away with it.

0:25:330:25:37

They both pleaded guilty for their part in scrounging:

0:25:370:25:40

..from 2002 to 2007.

0:25:430:25:46

In total:

0:25:460:25:48

Marina Beddows was sentenced to...

0:25:550:25:58

Colin Godbold received...

0:26:050:26:08

And the conning couple also have to pay back all the money they owe.

0:26:140:26:20

And with that kind of debt to repay,

0:26:200:26:22

I doubt they'll be jetting off to the States any time soon.

0:26:220:26:27

I was happy with the outcome, in that we'd seen the case to conclusion

0:26:270:26:32

and we'd established that there was a fraud.

0:26:320:26:35

I think people sometimes think they won't be caught.

0:26:360:26:40

The likelihood is that they will be caught, because we do have

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a number of investigators who are very highly trained,

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who will use sophisticated techniques, including interrogating bank accounts

0:26:470:26:51

and using undercover surveillance, to try and bring people to justice.

0:26:510:26:57

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:160:27:18

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.

A 54-year-old divorcee from Margate gets benefits to pay the rent. But an anonymous tip off suggests there is more to her relationship with her landlord than just business.

And we meet the saint who has transformed the life of over 500 Parkinson's sufferers.


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