East African immigration and benefit fraudsters jailed
An immigration scam gang which fraudulently siphoned over £4 million in benefits has been jailed for a total of 19 years.
The crime ring was smashed following an investigation by the UK Border Agency's criminal and financial investigation team which saw 9 people arrested during a series of coordinated dawn raids across east London in September 2011. The probe also involved a number of organisations, including HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), and found the scam had been operating for around 19 years.
Ringleader Ruth Nabuguzi, 49, of Church Road in Newham, used several false identifies to fraudulently claim benefit payments for herself, helping to build a complex consisting of luxury apartments, shops, restaurants and a hotel in her home city of Kampala, Uganda. She also created false identities for people she claimed were her children or dependents that enabled them to enter the country illegally from Uganda and claim benefits illegally.
The court heard that Nabuguzi - who also went under the names of Tessie Busulwa, Jane Namusisi and Pauline Zalwango - made multiple claims for asylum and benefits for herself and others as part of an elaborate scam. She was assisted by Dennis Kyeyune, Jordan Sebutemba, Lamulah Sekiziyuvu and Albert Kaidi.
Officers who raided Kyeyune's home address in Mitcham Road, East Ham, discovered numerous 'identity packs' in a holdall and plastic bag which had been placed on top of a garden shed.
This contained passports in five different identities of Nabuguzi bearing her photograph, Home Office residency permits and various benefits application forms. Finger print analysis showed Kyeyune had handled the plastic bag. The benefits claimed were mainly housing, disability and unemployment benefits, totalling around £1.6 million.
Ruth Nabuguzi also used her alternative identities to fraudulently claim a further £2.3 million worth of prescription drugs from the NHS. She did not have to pay for prescriptions as she was claiming disability living allowance illegally.
Nabuguzi pleaded guilty to various immigration and fraud offences at a previous hearing in March 2012 and was sentenced to six years in prison at Croydon crown court.
Co-conspirators Eddie Semanda and Lina Katongola, who were arrested at a later date, also pleaded guilty to various charges. Katongola was sentenced to 1 year in prison while Semanda got a four month suspended sentence.
Yvette Syapjeu (also known as Mathy Matumba) was also arrested as part of the investigation and sentenced to 4 years in prison after pleading guilty to various charges.
Another woman, Betty Tatiana Tibakawa, who also admitted charges, will be sentenced at a future date.
Kyeyune and Kaidi were sentenced to two and a half years, while Sekiziyuvu was jailed for 3 years. Sebutemba was given a 1 year suspended sentence. A jury had found them guilty of various immigration and fraud offences on 25 October following a 6 week trial at Croydon crown court.
Alan Sentongo, 23, who lived at Kyeyune's address, was cleared by the jury of one charge of possession of articles for use in fraud, contrary to section 6(1) of the Fraud Act 2006 and one charge of conspiracy to defraud, contrary to Common Law.
Passing the sentences today, the Judge commended the UK Border Agency's criminal and financial investigation team that led this successful investigation.
Tony Erne, from the UK Border Agency, said:
'This was a major criminal operation dating back several years. Ruth Nabuguzi and her co-conspirators thought they could get away with it but our officers, working closely with other agencies, smashed their web of deceit.
'These sentences show that abuse of our immigration system for profit will not be tolerated. The message is clear to those thinking of doing the same: we will rigorously investigate people who seek to abuse the hospitality of the UK and commit crime.'
The UK Border Agency will look to deprive British nationality of all those involved in the conspiracy. Those found guilty will face deportation after they have served their jail time and will be barred from re-entering the UK for at least ten years.
The UK Border Agency and other agencies will now seek to recover the proceeds of this conspiracy through Proceeds of Crime Act legislation on behalf of the taxpayer.
Mark Simpson, DWP team fraud investigator, said:
'This case shows how sophisticated fraudsters can be when they try to steal money from taxpayers and how investigators working across different branches of government will catch these criminals and bring them to justice.
'These criminals need to know investigators from DWP, UK Border Agency, and local councils are on their tail and by working together we can pool our expertise to target and stop this fraud.'
Bob Gaiger, HMRC spokesperson, said:
'Nabuguzi stole from honest taxpayers by attacking a system designed to help those most in need of financial help. HMRC will not stand by and let fraudsters rip-off the law abiding public. We are committed to protecting public finances from attacks by organised crime.
'Crooks like Nabuguzi should beware: working alongside other government departments, HMRC will find you, prosecute you and seek to reclaim any financial gain you receive from your criminal activity.'
The UK Border Agency's south London criminal and financial investigation team is a specialist unit of police officers seconded from the Metropolitan Police working alongside warranted UK Border Agency officers to investigate organised immigration crime.
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