On 13 April 2018, Ms Irina Serstena appeared before Peterborough Crown Court to hear the outcome of a Proceeds Of Crime Act application.
Serstena, of Gabriel Court, Peterborough and previously of Loves Way, St Neots, pleaded guilty to two offences under the Fraud Act 2006 by applying for social housing when, in fact, she already owned a property and was renting it out privately.
Huntingdonshire District Council’s Corporate Fraud Team launched an investigation following information received from BPHA, who were the landlord of her property in Loves Way. It was established that Serstena bought a flat in Gabriel Court in Peterborough in August 2011 and failed to declare this to the council when applying for social housing. She continued to bid for social housing and, in October 2011, she successfully and illegally bid for a property in Loves Way, St Neots and moved there in November 2011. As a result of the investigation it was established that Serstena had been renting out the flat she owned in Peterborough for the last six years and receiving the money while she continued to live in the Loves Way property.
Serstena originally appeared at court on 15 December 2017 and, as a result of pleading guilty, was sentenced to a 12 month Community Order concurrent in respect of each offence with a requirement for 150 hours unpaid work. The matter was then scheduled for 13 April 2018 to deal with the Proceeds of Crime application. His Honour Judge Lowe made a confiscation order for Serstena to pay £31,184.62 in full within six months or face a one year prison sentence. Costs of £1,200 were also awarded to the council.
This was a great example of collaborative and joint partnership working, not only within the district council but with our outside partners, BPHA and Cambridge and Peterborough Trading Standards, whose financial investigator we used in this case. We continue to work closely with BPHA and many other housing associations and agencies.
Corporate Director (Services), Oliver Morley, said: "We work hard to ensure cheats are not going to get away with it in Huntingdonshire. We take housing those that need it very seriously and, as this case shows, we use all powers at our disposal to pursue those who illegally claim help they are not entitled to. We are proud to work closely with partners and this case should show how hard we work to protect public services and money."
If you know of someone who is defrauding the council, please remember it’s your money and services that are being stolen. You can report fraud on our confidential fraud hotline on 01480 388188, via our website or by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Leave as much information as possible so that we are aware of the full facts before an investigation starts. All reports will be looked into but we cannot provide any information about the outcome of individual investigations.