Benefit fraudster claims over £5,000 after making up 19 children and a cancer diagnosis

A BENEFIT fraudster claimed over £5,000 for 19 fake children through a Universal Credit loophole.

Fraud Squad take a look at man with ‘fake family’

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The man would open a claim as a single person, report changes of circumstances that allowed him to get cash advances and then closed the claim only to create a new one, following the same process 14 times. Across the multiple claims, the man supposedly had 19 children, 10 of whom were blind, and a terminal cancer diagnosis himself.

BBC’s Fraud Squad interviewed Heather Copeland, a fraud investigator with the Department for Work and Pensions, who was able to solve this case and see justice served.

She noted: “My job is to prove or disprove the allegation. If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve done nothing wrong.”

The man she investigated had taken advantage of a loophole, which has since been plugged, in the online Universal Credit system.

Originally, the case had been flagged by someone working in the Jobcentre who had grown suspicious of the fraudster, believing he was making changes to his claims which were untrue. 

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Man putting money in his pocket

The fraudster had stolen over £5,000 by the time he was caught (Image: GETTY)

Ms Copeland explained his scam tactic: “He would make a claim as a single person, a genuine claim, then he would go in a few days later on to his Universal Credit account and he would add these children on.”

He reported changes that meant he had become responsible for several children overnight and needed urgent help. 

Adding children onto his claim made him eligible for cash advances, which he would claim and then close his Universal Credit claim altogether once he had received the money. 

The amount of cash advance one can claim is capped, which is why he would shut down his claim and then open a new one when he needed cash again. 

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Heather Copeland on BBC's Fraud Squad

Ms Copeland is a fraud investigator for the DWP (Image: BBC)

In total, he claimed Universal Credit 14 times. 

Ms Copeland investigated each claim, forming 14 timelines of both the fraudster and his alleged children. 

She shared: “He claimed he had 19 children, and 10 of those children were supposedly blind.”

Each child he reported earned him nearly £240, with each disabled child earning £400.

To ensure these claims were fraudulent, Ms Copeland had to prove whether the children existed. 

She said: “First thing I need to establish whether these children are real or not. He uses the same name a few times over different claims and the date of birth is slightly different. 

“These are: Lucy, Luke, Millie, Marcus, Mabel, Kayden, another Kayden, Imogen, Skyler, another Skyler, Kasen, Jayden, Warren, another Skyler, another Kayden, Dylan, Lucas, Lucy and Harry.”

She then went onto the disability benefit system and child benefit system, cross-referencing the children’s names and birthdates. Her results found: “I cannot find any of these children exist at all. I can also see that this claimant has no children. 

“One of the most serious changes that this claimant reported was that at one stage he reported he had liver cancer and that he had five months to live.”

Ms Copeland initially invited the fraudster to an interview where he confessed: “He made a full and frank confession saying that he did in fact make these children up, he gave some of them disabilities and he did it in order to gain extra benefit. He also stated that he was very sorry, very ashamed.”

He also admitted that his terminal cancer diagnosis was entirely false. 

After filing the case with the Crown Prosecution Service, Ms Copeland realised he had done it again, making up another child and two more claims. 

He refused to turn up to further interviews with Ms Copeland but plead guilty to 11 breaches of the social security act at the Swindon Magistrates Court, where he was given a 12 month community order and forced to repay the total £5,099.09 he had received from the benefit system. 

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William Murphy

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