A fraudster has been ordered to pay back more than £90,000 for her part in a lucrative council house scam.
Last July at Newcastle Crown Court, Monica Li received a 10-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months, after admitting fraud under the Government’s Right to Buy scheme.
Tenant Li purchased her council house valued at £65,000 from Your Homes Newcastle in 2011 for £40,950 successfully applying for a £24,050 discount on the strict condition that the property was her principal home.
But instead of living in the smart two-bed mid terrace property with garden in Lampeter Close, Etal Park, Newcastle, she was living in another house in Sunderland. After buying the property at a vastly reduced price due to the discount, she then rented it out.
At a Proceeds of Crime Hearing on March 8 this year, Li, aged 44, of Wetherall Close, Sunderland, was ordered to pay back £90,950 – the Judge taking into account the discount she received at the time of the purchase, the rental income, appreciation in the value of the property over 10 years and other assets she had accrued.
The prosecution was brought by Newcastle City Council on behalf of Your Homes Newcastle (YHN).
Cabinet member for housing, Cllr Linda Hobson, said: “Fraud is a very serious criminal offence.
“The case was investigated by our internal fraud team who now have the resources to investigate and pursue cases like this and tenancy fraud.
“Purchasing a council house fraudulently by claiming a discount and then renting it out while living elsewhere is indefensible – especially when there is such a need for affordable social housing. It’s morally wrong, dishonest, and has severely backfired in this instance.
“I hope this case sends out a strong message to anyone thinking of doing this – or may be doing it – that if we catch you, we won’t hesitate to prosecute you, and the financial penalties can be life changing.”
Tina Drury, managing director of YHN, said: “While we of course wish this despicable crime had not been committed in the first place, we’re very pleased that the hard work of teams from YHN and Newcastle City Council has been rewarded with a successful prosecution.
“Tenancy fraud will absolutely not be tolerated by us and anyone considering purchasing a council property with this intention in mind should heed these warnings.
“I hope this action reassures our customers that we always do everything in our power to protect the council’s assets so those in genuine need can benefit from them.
“If you suspect anyone of committing tenancy fraud please don’t hesitate to report it, and rest assured it will be thoroughly investigated.”
The Judge ordered Li to repay £90,950 within three months which can be extended to six months to allow the house to be sold. Under the Proceeds of Crime Act if funds are not repaid a defendant can be committed to prison.
Image: Duncan Andison / Shutterstock
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