Press Release: Council Prevents Council Tax Fraud

A Pound Hill resident has been successfully prosecuted by Crawley Borough Council for committing three offences under the Fraud Act 2006.

Saira Ishaq of Maunsell Park attempted to deceive the council by supplying two false student certificates in order to gain a Council Tax exemption.

She received a Council Tax bill for £779 in July 2017 and shortly afterwards emailed a copy of a student certificate to the Taxation department at the council. The certificate appeared to have been issued by Queen Mary University of London and stated that she was a part-time student on a course ending in July 2019. However, as the certificate stated she was only studying part-time, she did not qualify for a full-time student reduction.

In October 2017, Miss Ishaq again emailed the Taxation department with an updated student certificate from the same university. This certificate was almost identical but now stated that she was studying full-time. In order to clarify her student status, officers contacted the university and were told that she was not enrolled with them as a student.

As a result, her case was referred to the council’s Fraud Investigation Team for further enquiries and evidence was obtained which confirmed that Saira Ishaq had never been registered as a student at the university and that various elements of the two certificates provided were both false.

Saira Ishaq was interviewed under caution by the Fraud Team and admitted the deception and that she had acted dishonestly by providing the forgeries.

The council has a robust process for checking entitlement to all discounts and exemptions, but if the certificate had been accepted as genuine, Miss Ishaq would have gained a significant Council Tax reduction that would have run over the course of two years until July 2019, amounting to nearly £2000.

The case was heard at Crawley Magistrate’s Court on 29 August and Miss Ishaq pleaded guilty to all three offences. She was sentenced to a 12 month Community Order for 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £500 costs to the council.

Leader of Crawley Borough Council, Councillor Peter Lamb, said: “While Council Tax fraud is very rare, when people do commit it they take money directly from the local police and council services our community depends upon. Where fraud is committed, those individuals will be found and they will be prosecuted.”

The Corporate Fraud Investigation Team works to prevent, detect and investigate all types of fraud and offences committed against Crawley Borough Council.

If you have a suspicion of fraud, they can be contacted free and in confidence on 0800 634 0180 or by email to: investigations@crawley.gov.uk

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