Cancer conman caught as part of councils’ crackdown

A former tenant who pretended to have cancer to try to con his way up the council housing list is amongst the fraud and corruption tackled recently by Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils, according to an annual report.

The man pretended to be terminally ill in an attempt to trick the council into providing a larger four-bedroom home, but his deception was uncovered when officers became suspicious of a forged doctor’s letter.  

He pleaded guilty at Suffolk Magistrates Court last year, and was sentenced to 17 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, 200 hours community service, and ordered to pay compensation of £1,928.50 to the council.

The case is just one example of how the councils tackle the risk of fraud and corruption, included in an annual report going before members of the councils’ joint audit and standards committee later this month.

The report explains arrangements in place across both councils to prevent fraud and corruption; to create a culture where it will not be tolerated; and the steps taken to detect it if suspected.

It also reveals how the councils are leading the way in reducing fraud and error in Housing Benefit payments, with the councils’ Shared Revenues Partnership recognised by the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) for their work in identifying 54 cases of overpayment between February and December 2023, totalling more than £10.7K in Babergh and 45 cases worth £3.2K in Mid Suffolk.

Babergh District Council acting leader, Cllr John Ward, said:

“People may think they are cheating the system, but they are actually cheating the taxpayers – trying to gain an unfair advantage over friends, neighbours and colleagues.  We have a duty to tackle fraud and corruption – and to ensure that we also hold ourselves up to the highest possible standards.”

Anti-fraud work within the council has included recent training to raise awareness of potential money laundering scams, helping employees to recognise suspicious transactions and act swiftly to stop them.  The councils also operate a whistleblowing policy, encouraging council officers, contractors, and councillors to raise and pursue any concerns without fear of any possible reprisals.

Mid Suffolk District Council leader Cllr Andy Mellen said:

“It’s important that our residents and communities can trust us, not only as the custodians of public funds, but also as individuals who feel passionately about protecting our districts and the quality of services that we provide.”

The report is due before the councils’ Joint Audit and Standards Committee on Monday 25 March.

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