Badrul Islam/Blesma Saints and Scroungers


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Badrul Islam/Blesma

Series looking at benefit fraud. A Senior Benefit Officer becomes the centre of a two hundred thousand pound fraud investigation when investigators discover an inside job.


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Millions 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

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'who ruthlessly steal millions of pounds every year from the British taxpayer.

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'And we search out the saints, those who are too proud to claim

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'and the people who get them the money they are entitled to.'

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Coming up in today's programme,

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the staggering £200,000 fraud that turned out to be an inside job.

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I'm looking out across all the staff in the office,

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knowing that one person out there was stealing money from us.

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'And we meet the young hero who needs help after losing his leg serving our country.'

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I'm petrified at this point, cos I'm thinking, "I've just been blown up,

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"I know I'm in a minefield, this day cannot get any worse."

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Every year, housing benefit fraud costs us, the British taxpayer,

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hundreds of millions of pounds.

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But luckily, councils have investigators and they're pretty good at spotting these fraudsters.

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But every now and again, a case lands on their desk which surprises even them.

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'Meet Badrul Islam.

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'He's 43, married with three children

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'and works for Newham Council.

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'In his time there, he has worked as a benefit fraud officer and a senior benefit officer.

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'In fact, after 13 years there, he's one of their most trusted employees.

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'So, why is he hiding his face and making a quick getaway?

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'Could it be because he's at the centre of a £200,000 fraud investigation?'

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This case was very shocking, very surprising.

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It wasn't something I had any experience of dealing with.

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'This fraud would shake Newham Council to the core.

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'Not just because it was a six-figure scam,

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'but because this case was an inside job.

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'Internal investigations are very sensitive

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'because of the risk of wrongly accusing a colleague or tipping off the fraudster.

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'Counter Fraud Manager Emma Vick was in charge of the case.'

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I just was told that the benefits manager had a suspicion that a member of staff

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was involved in something he shouldn't have been and could I deal with it?

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They'd done an audit and as a result,

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they'd found some suspicious large payments. That's when I got involved.

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'The housing benefit team had found something fishy when they ran some routine checks on lump-sum payments.

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There was some unusual payments being made.

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In one particular payment,

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we couldn't find any reasonable explanation

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for why the payment had occurred.

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Suddenly, there was a large payment of over £13,000 to a landlord.

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So we went to the manager of the service

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and we asked him for his expert advice about how this had arisen.

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I had these two mysterious payments, didn't know where they'd come from,

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how they'd occurred. A couple of times it had crossed my mind

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that someone was defrauding us.

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But it crosses your mind and then you sort of dismiss it.

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'Housing benefit is a lifeline for people who would otherwise have no way of paying the rent.

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'It can be paid to the tenant, landlord or letting agent.

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'A back payment is unusual because it happens when there has been a change of circumstances,

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'like the rent going up.

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'The higher rate of benefit is backdated and paid out in a lump sum.

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'It was a lump-sum payment that began this case.'

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These particular instances were very, very unusual

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-because the last transaction on the account was several years before.

-So at that point,

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-you realised there's a rat in the kitchen.

-Yes, potentially, we've got an employee that's committing fraud.

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I remember standing there in my office and looking out

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across all the staff in the office knowing that one person out there was stealing money from us.

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'While the IT department were tracing the log-in details for whoever had made the payments,

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'David trawled through the records himself.'

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Although the person had taken quite a lot of care to cover their tracks,

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as often happens, a mistake had been made

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so the person had, just one time, forgotten to do something

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that meant that their name actually appeared,

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so on the screen, I could suddenly see who'd carried out that transaction and I knew it was Badrul.

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It was a heartbreaking discovery.

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Badrul Islam was a trusted colleague and well-known in the council.

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As soon as you realise this sort of thing is going on, it's a real shock.

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Emma, how did you know Badrul Islam?

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I knew Badrul because he was a benefits officer. He worked for part of Newham benefit service.

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He was also well spoken, well turned out, he knew a lot of people,

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a lot of people turned to him for advice because he'd worked here a long time, he was a family man,

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-early 40s.

-Would you ever now, with hindsight,

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-ever, ever have suspected him of being a benefit cheat?

-No. There was nothing to indicate that.

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The first payment that was identified as a result of the audit was just over £5,000.

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As a result of that being identified, the rest were then looked at

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and we found the total to be just over £71,000.

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'This really is no ordinary fraud.

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'An insider job to the tune of 70 grand.

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'So, what was Badrul doing?'

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He was taking old cases, cases that we'd paid housing benefit on several years ago, tenant had moved out.

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He was going back to those old computer records...

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..and he was increasing the rent on them.

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If the rent was £150 a week, Badrul would go in

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and for a period, a year, say, he would increase the rent to £250 a week.

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Simply by doing that, he would create a payment

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of £5,000 that he would then send

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to the landlord on the case.

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What we were looking at was the trail that showed that

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it was his user ID that was responsible for

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doing the transaction that caused the payment.

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'So that's how he got the money out.

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'But it had to be paid into a bank account,

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'so Badrul needed an accomplice.'

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We could see that the money was going to a company called Eurobangla, a local letting agent

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owned by a gentleman called Mr Moin Uddin Ahmed.

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'Eurobangla was the missing link.

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'Badrul was generating the payments and his partner in crime, Moin Uddin Ahmed, was receiving them.

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'The team suspect that once the money goes to Eurobangla, Badrul gets a share of it.

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'It's a clever fraud, but the net is closing in on Badrul.'

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For a fraud investigation team, nothing could be worse than finding out someone they knew and trusted

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had been deceiving them right underneath their very noses.

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But this team weren't about to let Badrul Islam off the hook.

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This was a very serious crime. £71,000 is a lot of money,

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so we decided very early on that we would have Mr Islam arrested and take the case in that direction.

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Badrul Islam, at this point, didn't have a clue that you knew about him.

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No, not a clue. He was at work, the same as he was any other day.

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We'd made sure he was going to be in the office and we'd been tipped off that he was there.

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About ten o'clock in the morning, we arrived.

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We attended with a detective constable from Scotland Yard and also two uniformed police officers.

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And I was asked to bring Badrul down.

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So I speak to Badrul, said I'd like to go outside.

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I remember he said to me, "Have you started smoking again?"

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And he picked his coat up,

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cos he thought we were going outside for a cigarette.

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When they got to the front of the building, we went into an office.

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I identified myself

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and explained who I was and then I introduced the detective constable

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to Mr Islam.

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The blood literally drained from Badrul's face

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and he just looked like his whole world had collapsed on him.

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And if I had any doubts that he was guilty,

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just his reaction at that moment just said

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-he's definitely done this.

-He just stood there in front of us,

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answered his name when he was asked his name and just looked like a very lonely man.

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'Badrul was taken to Forest Gate Police Station.

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'It was a dramatic morning, but at the station, there's more drama to come.

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'Coming up, a search of Badrul's pockets

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'reveals a piece of paper that blows the whole investigation wide open.'

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I was concerned that this was getting bigger and bigger.

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It started off as quite a serious case and now we were moving into

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the realms of something that I've not dealt with before.

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'Next, it's farewell fraudsters, and time to meet our saints.

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'The thousands of people who don't know how or are too proud to ask for benefits.

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'And the people who help them get what they're entitled to. Our saints.'

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Soldiers and their families know that when they go to war,

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there's always a chance they might not come home alive.

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What few people realise is that many of those who do survive

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come back with injuries so serious it can take them years to adapt to their disability.

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And to do that takes an awful lot of support.

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'Lance Corporal Jonathan Lee, or Jono to his friends, is a survivor.

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'He served in some of the most hostile territories in the world.

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'He was sent to Iraq twice and he served in Afghanistan.

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'But when he was just 24, a roadside bomb changed his life forever.

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'It detonated right underneath his vehicle

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'and he was blown through the air.'

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I'm head-first in the desert, flipped over, landed on my back.

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I thought, "I'm going to die now," closed my eyes, went unconscious for a few seconds.

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'Jono's leg was shattered. He needed urgent medical attention.'

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I started dragging myself back to my vehicle, in a lot of pain.

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And my mate screamed, "Stop! What you doing?"

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There was a landmine about that far away from my head. He said, "Stop, I think you're in a minefield."

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I'm petrified cos I'm thinking, "I've been blown up and I'm in a minefield. This day cannot get any worse."

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I just heard on the radio, "If we don't get a medic to him now, I think this guy's going to die."

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'With Jono's life hanging in the balance,

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'they managed to evacuate him to the field hospital at Camp Bastion.

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'Jono had escaped with his life,

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'but at Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, there was some bad news in store.'

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The surgeon came in, he sat down and he said, "I've got to have a chat with you." I'm like, "Yeah, OK."

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He says, "We could do operations for 12 months and we might be able to save the leg,

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"but I'm not sure we are going to be able to do it."

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'Jono had to make one of the hardest decisions of his life.

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'And three days later, he went into surgery to have his leg amputated.'

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I woke up in the worst pain in the world.

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Nobody could understand how much pain I was in. I need something now.

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And the next day, I was in my wheelchair, spinning about.

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Everybody was like, "You only lost your leg yesterday, be careful." I'm doing wheelies.

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Three weeks later, I'm walking, and it's like, "Wow, I lost a leg and I'm walking!"

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'Whilst he was struggling with adjusting to his new life,

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'Jono also had to think about finances.

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'Amputees who have lost limbs in service

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'are entitled to apply for army compensation

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'and may be entitled to a disability living allowance.

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'A blue badge can help with parking.

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'Servicemen and women going to the front line are also strongly encouraged

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'to take out private military insurance, something Jono did.'

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I got £150,000. That was within 24 hours of losing my leg.

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'That might sound like a small fortune,

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'but for an amputee, it doesn't go far.'

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I've got to buy a house. That's half of it gone.

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I've never lived in a house before, so I've got to kit the house out. Gone.

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And I've got to make it disabled friendly.

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There you go. That's another lot gone.

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I need a car cos I can't walk around as much. That's another lot gone.

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Three years later, you've got no money left.

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'Jono's story is a familiar one to Charlie Streether.

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'He's a welfare officer for the British Limbless Ex-Servicemen's Association, or BLESMA.

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'The charity was set up to help people in the forces who have lost limbs.

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Things weren't quite in synch with what I could see of his injuries

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to what had been applied for for his armed forces compensation scheme.

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He said to me, "Your army compensation, have you done the form?"

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"Yes, I've received a little bit of money off them, but it wasn't what I was expecting."

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He said, "How much have you received?" So I told him

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and he said, "That can't be right."

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"Well, I filled the form in and sent it off." "Let me have a look at the form."

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"Right, something hasn't happened here." He rung them up, he's doing all this, form after form after form.

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'They had an agonising wait to find out if Jono would get the money he needed.'

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So Charlie went away and within a few months of Charlie getting involved, that army sum got doubled.

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If it wasn't for Charlie and BLESMA's involvement, I wouldn't have a house

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anywhere near what I've got now.

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And everything in it is from that army money, so if it wasn't for BLESMA and Charlie,

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I wouldn't be able to afford it.

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'It's a result that will have a positive impact on the rest of Jono's life.

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'But Charlie's done so much more. He's helped Jono get the right level of disability living allowance,

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'spoken to Motability about ensuring that he had access to a free car

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'and even taking up the fight to get Jono a blue badge for parking.

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'All in all, Charlie's made a massive difference to Jono's life.

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'Today, our heroes are meeting up with some fellow amputees.

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'They're doing some indoor skydiving, a challenge even for the able-bodied.'

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The army and me have got together and we've approached the social services in Nottingham

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and I'm doing work experience with them for two months, becoming a social worker.

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And I want to do as much as I can to help people in my local area and extend it onwards.

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If it wasn't for BLESMA, I don't think I'd be the person I am today.

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'Jono, Charlie and BLESMA's mission to give something back to others is an inspiration to us all.

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'They're heroes as well as saints.'

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'Badrul Islam was a senior benefit officer for Newham Council.

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'He's worked there for 13 years, but for the past year and a half,

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'he's been authorising fake housing benefits

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'worth more than £70,000.

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'The recipient is a letting agent, Moin Uddin Ahmed,

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'who works for a company called Eurobangla.'

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The department was shocked to discover they had an in-house fraudster.

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But things were about to get a whole lot more complex.

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'Badrul had been arrested and taken to Forest Gate Police Station.'

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It's normal practice, when you get booked in, all your pockets are looked through.

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In his inside pocket of his jacket, there was a print-out

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from the benefits system that detailed particular payments

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to another landlord, a company called Elite Property Services.

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'Dulal Haque runs Elite Property Services,

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'the company named on Badrul's piece of paper.

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'After discovering the print-out, the team hold off interviewing Badrul.

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'Because they need to know if Haque has been receiving any bogus payments.'

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This is the second company now.

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So we phoned the benefits manager

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and we then asked him to go back and check all the transactions

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that Badrul's user ID may have done in relation to that company.

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And then we sat around and waited.

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-We got the phone call back saying, yes, he's done exactly the same.

-How much?

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It was looking to be £125,000.

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-So we're talking about just under 200 grand in total.

-Yeah.

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'What a bombshell. Not only is this an inside job,

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'but it's now a fraud in the region of £200,000.'

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Can you remember how you felt when you heard that figure?

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Stunned. I just felt drained.

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You can feel that feeling of dread that goes through you and you think, "Oh, my God."

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'Meanwhile, the investigators

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'are still holding off interviewing Badrul.'

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We were now concerned that there may be others involved

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and we arranged for the police officer

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to go and search Mr Islam's home address

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to see if there were any further documents

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that may lead us to further landlords.

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Mr Islam's wife was present with a small baby and, obviously, she found that quite shocking

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because, at that point, she thought her husband was at work. She didn't realise he had been arrested.

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'The house search didn't unearth any more landlords,

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'but it wasn't in vain.'

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We found various bank accounts that we didn't know he had

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that showed that he appeared to be in a bit of debt. He didn't have an awful lot of money.

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'The bank statements also reveal some mysterious payments.'

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We have a Nationwide account that shows lots of cash transactions, lots of cash payments being received

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into that account, in particular, in September '06, £300,

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and then in October '06, £200.

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And this pattern follows all the way through. A cash credit there in October '06 of £1,620,

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which is probably not that much different from what his wages would've been at that time,

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so there's no way that has come from his legitimate income.

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'It's hard to trace cash,

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'so although the team suspect Ahmed and Haque

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'are giving Badrul Islam a share of the money, they can't prove it.'

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'Badrul has been sitting in the police station all day.

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'But finally, at quarter to ten at night, they interview him.'

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-Have you had any dealings with that company?

-No comment.

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He didn't say anything. He said "no comment" to all the questions. He answered his name, address,

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date of birth, but apart from that, no comment.

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'It's the end of a long day. They've arrested Badrul, searched his house and his desk,

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'discovered the fraud is now in the region of £200,000

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'and found two other accomplices.

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'But the case is far from over.

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'To move the investigation on, the team now need to do some digging

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'into the two letting agents who were at the receiving end of Badrul's fraudulent payments.'

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-Tell me about Eurobangla and Elite. What happened with them?

-We decided to call them in for interviews

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under caution. And they both cooperated throughout. They came for two interviews each,

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turned up each time and both had a version of events very consistent with each other.

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'The team needed to prove

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'that Badrul was working in cahoots with Haque and Ahmed.

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'So they asked them to explain how they knew him.'

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-What did Badrul say about them?

-Exactly the same.

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-No comment?

-Well, in further interviews,

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he said he knew them because they would've come in, they were just landlords.

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'They asked Haque and Ahmed to explain the massive payments

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that had suddenly appeared in their accounts.'

0:22:310:22:34

-Is that excuse feasible?

-No. They would've received letters saying what the payments were for,

0:22:510:22:56

the dates, they knew they weren't entitled to them.

0:22:560:22:59

-So they're all denying any conspiracy to defraud the system.

-Yep.

0:22:590:23:04

-All the way through.

-Did that worry you?

0:23:040:23:06

Not really, because we were gathering together quite a lot of documentary evidence

0:23:060:23:10

including phone records that showed they'd been in touch with each other and we were confident.

0:23:100:23:15

'Although Badrul, Haque and Ahmed claim they've only met a few times,

0:23:170:23:21

'Emma and her team are pulling in everything they can to show that the suspected fraudsters

0:23:210:23:26

'know each other better than they're letting on.

0:23:260:23:29

'And a diary found of Badrul's desk at work provides a breakthrough.'

0:23:290:23:34

We went through it several times looking for anything that might be of interest.

0:23:350:23:39

On the page that's highlighted with an N, there's a mobile telephone number

0:23:390:23:43

that we know to be the mobile number of Mr Ahmed, the owner of Eurobangla.

0:23:430:23:47

Written above it is something in a language that we now know to be Bengali,

0:23:470:23:52

so we had that translated to see what it said. That says, "Brother Ahmed"

0:23:520:23:57

and in the Bengali language, that is a term of affection. It shows a very close relationship between them.

0:23:570:24:03

'Finding the diary entry is a eureka moment

0:24:040:24:08

'because it means Badrul and Ahmed have a much closer relationship than they're letting on.

0:24:080:24:13

'But the team manage to top it when they get hold of phone records for Badrul and the two letting agents.'

0:24:140:24:20

Each one of these tabs represents a phone call. The different colours indicate

0:24:200:24:24

where it would be a phone call between Badrul Islam and Moin Ahmed or Badrul Islam and Dulal Haque.

0:24:240:24:30

We tabled all of this and we presented that as part of our evidence

0:24:300:24:34

to show that there was a personal relationship between them

0:24:340:24:37

and to show that the dates that the phone calls happened

0:24:370:24:40

was quite often just before or after one of the transactions had been sent to a landlord.

0:24:400:24:44

'Now the team have a watertight case.

0:24:470:24:50

'The three swindlers denied knowing each other,

0:24:500:24:53

'but these phone records

0:24:530:24:54

'make them look like they've all been on speed dial.'

0:24:540:24:58

Once they knew about this, how much of a shock did it come to them?

0:24:580:25:01

One by one, that was when they started to change their pleas to guilty. It made them realise

0:25:010:25:06

that we were being serious and we weren't going to go away and we were gathering more and more evidence.

0:25:060:25:11

-And their pleas of innocence would fall on a judge's deaf ears.

-Yeah.

-Because that in itself...

0:25:110:25:17

This completely blew out of the water their, "We've only spoken to each other one or two times

0:25:170:25:22

"in a work environment."

0:25:220:25:24

'In June 2010, before his court appearance,

0:25:280:25:32

'Badrul Islam changed his plea to guilty.

0:25:320:25:34

'Haque and Ahmed followed suit.

0:25:370:25:39

'On 5th August, 2010,

0:25:410:25:43

'they all turned up to Inner London Crown Court to hear their sentence.'

0:25:430:25:48

Today we're here for the sentencing of Badrul Islam, Dulal Haque and Moin Ahmed.

0:25:490:25:54

I'm hopeful that justice will be done and we'll get custodial sentences in relation to all three.

0:25:550:26:00

'And Emma's hopes were granted.

0:26:050:26:07

'The judge heard how Badrul, with the help of his two co-conspirators,

0:26:070:26:11

'had swindled the Newham taxpayers out of...

0:26:110:26:19

'And his sentence reflected this.

0:26:190:26:21

'Dulal Haque of Elite Letting Agents was given 12 months in jail.

0:26:210:26:26

Moin Uddin Ahmed got 14 months.

0:26:260:26:29

And Badrul Islam, the man on the inside,

0:26:290:26:32

was sentenced to two years and four months in prison.

0:26:320:26:36

I knew Badrul for a long time and I'm quite well aware of the devastating effect

0:26:390:26:44

this has had on his life, so I don't take any personal pleasure in it,

0:26:440:26:48

but it's just completely unacceptable that people can even think

0:26:480:26:51

that they can take money that doesn't belong to them. So I think justice has been done.

0:26:510:26:57

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:27:000:27:04

E-mail subtitling@bbc.co.uk

0:27:040:27:08

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 Senior Benefit Officer becomes the centre of a £200,000 fraud investigation when investigators discover an inside job!

Plus Dominic meets Lance-Corporal Jonathan Lee, who has served in some of the most hostile territories in the world. But a roadside bomb in Afghanistan changed his life forever.