Authorities order benefits fraudster to repay £2m

Ali Bana Mohamed, 42, was jailed in 2022 for masterminding a decade-long scam to cheat taxpayers

Representational image (iStock)

Pramod Thomas

A convicted benefits fraudster, who orchestrated a decade-long scheme to cheat taxpayers out of at least £1.7 million, has been ordered to repay more than £2m or face a nine-year prison sentence, reported the MailOnline.

The department for work and pensions (DWP) issued the repayment order to Ali Bana Mohamed, 42, giving him three months to return the amount.

In 2022, Mohamed, from Hulme in Manchester, was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in prison for masterminding the sophisticated scam, wherein he falsified the identities of nearly 200 children to claim public money.

According to the report, he involved relatives and friends, submitting bogus claims under about 70 different names, using stolen identities of adults and fake birth certificates.

The scam came to light when HMRC noticed repeated use of the same two telephone numbers in connection with seemingly unrelated claims.

The DWP initiated Operation Paratrooper, leading to the discovery of Mohamed and six accomplices behind the fraudulent activity.

The investigation also revealed links to four properties in Manchester, including a fast-food shop and cafe, along with £500,000 in illicit bank transfers and withdrawals.

Mohamed, already serving 16 years for drugs and immigration offences, admitted to 29 fraud offenses. In 2022, six accomplices received jail sentences totaling more than 13 years, with one having his term suspended. The court praised DWP officers for their skill and determination in the investigation.

At a recent confiscation hearing on December 22 at Liverpool Crown Court, Mohamed was ordered to repay £2,164,828.30 under the Proceeds of Crime Act, which allows courts to calculate the amount individuals have benefited from their offenses and issue a confiscation order based on assets.

Work and pensions secretary Mel Stride emphasised the commitment to fairness in the welfare system and ensuring that those in need receive help while holding exploiters accountable.

“So as benefit fraud becomes more sophisticated, so must we. This latest case is testament to the tenacity of our expert anti-fraud squad who saved the hard-working taxpayer £1.1billion last year,” Stride was quoted as saying.

The DWP has pledged £900m over three years to tackle the estimated £8 billion annual cost to taxpayers.

The report added that the new Data Protection and Digital Information Bill will empower officials to check the accounts of individuals receiving benefits, as part of the department’s ongoing efforts to combat fraud.