On 29 November 2018, Mr David Clements and Ms Theresa Marie Creaney appeared before Cambridge Crown Court to hear the outcome of a Proceeds of Crime Act Application.
Clements and Creaney, previously of Goldcrest Road, St Ives, pleaded guilty to offences under the Fraud Act 2006 and Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, by sub-letting the shared ownership property they had with BPHA for three years while living in Northern Ireland and in another property that Creaney owned.
The council’s Corporate Fraud Team commenced an investigation into Clements and Creaney following information received from BPHA, the landlord of the shared ownership property. Clements originally became eligible for the property as he was working as a teacher at a nearby school, and these properties were allocated by BPHA to first time buyers/key workers to allow access to affordable housing. Sub-letting is not permitted in these type of properties. Creaney then moved in with him a few months later.
Following a joint investigation and visit to the address, it was established that Clements and Creaney were renting out rooms in the property and charging between £350 and £450 per month. It was found to be occupied by three tenants, all of whom were paying rent and unaware it was a shared ownership property. The tenants advised the property had been advertised through SpareRoom.com and most communications had been dealt with via email or text, with some tenants never actually meeting Clements or Creaney in person.
Clements and Creaney originally appeared at Cambridge Crown Court on 4 October 2018, as a result of pleading guilty to offences contrary to the Fraud Act 2006 and Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. At this hearing a benefit figure from criminal activity was agreed at £41,990.95 and Clements was sentenced to a 12 month custody suspended for 18 months, and ordered to complete 120 hours of unpaid work. Creaney was sentenced to nine months in custody, suspended for 18 months due to her ongoing health issues. In his summing up, Judge Bridge stated: “You decided to sublet the property. You knew this was a breach of the agreement and a criminal offence.”
The Proceeds of Crime Application was dealt with on 29 November 2018. This was in the presence of Recorder Fraser-Butlin, where a confiscation order for £23,774 was granted due to the limited assets available - the full amount is to be paid within three months. Failure to pay this order within the timescale could result in a default prison sentence of eight months for Clements and four months for Creaney.
This was a great example of joint partnership working with BPHA and Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Trading Standards, whose financial investigator we used in this case.
Cllr Jonathan Gray, Executive Councillor for Resources, said: “This case once again shows what collaborative working with our partners can achieve. We take housing those that need it very seriously, and will do everything we can to assist our social landlords if they believe a property is sub-let or not being occupied, as this has a direct impact on our waiting list and families in temporary accommodation.
“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, or who has a social housing property and is not living there, or who is sub-letting it please remember it’s your money and services that are being stolen and these actions deprive families of homes. You can report fraud on the council’s confidential ‘fraud hotline’ on 01480 388188, through the council’s website or by e-mail. Leave as much information as possible to ensure that the council is aware of the full facts before an investigation starts. All reports will be looked into, but we are unable to provide any information as to the outcome of individual investigations.