East Hull benefit fraud scam 'the most organised' detective has seen
A DETECTIVE says a benefit fraud scam run from an east Hull estate was the most organised he has seen.
Twenty-three people have admitted their role in the scheme, which is thought to have netted them about £40,000 in total.
They would pay a man – who has not yet been named in court – to increase the amounts on benefit cheques they had received.
Detective Inspector Simon Henrickson, of Hull's priority crime team, said: "I have never come across something this organised before.
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"The man worked out how to alter these cheques and would then charge people to change their cheques to higher amounts."
The group were caught as part of Operation Languish, which was launched by Humberside Police and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) after the department's regional fraud unit noticed a pattern of suspicious cheques.
All lived in the Preston Road Estate area and found out about the scheme through word-of-mouth.
When interviewed by officers from the DWP, one of the defendants said: "You should have known something was going on – everybody had new trackies and trainers and it wasn't even Christmas."
Another told officers: "Everyone on the estate was doing it."
All of the cheques had been cashed at the East Park Post Office in Morrisons supermarket, Holderness Road, or at the loan company H Stanley.
Det Insp Henrickson said: "The DWP did most of the investigation and have done a really good job. It is a good result to get all these people before the court.
"This case shows why, in the current climate, the Government is trying to tighten up the benefits system. It frustrated me to see how easy it was to commit these sorts of offences."
Most of the people involved received the cheques as part of Jobseekers Allowance or after applying for crisis loans.
All are now having money deducted from their benefits to repay the money they stole.
The latest two defendants appeared at Hull Magistrates' Court yesterday. Christopher Martin Salter, 26, admitted two counts of fraud by false representation.
He paid to have cheques altered from £135 to £374.15 and from £17.37 to £370 in December 2011.
His solicitor Laura Wickens said: "He was at a low point in his life and was offered financial help from a friend, which resulted in him cashing these cheques.
"He used the money to pay a debt to a friend."
Scott Kevin Denholm, 21, of Downing Grove, admitted one charge of committing fraud by false representation. He paid to have one cheque changed from £36.64 to £392.41 in October 2011.
Amelia Woollen, representing Denholm, said: "He foolishly took the easy option to make more money, which he regrets."
He was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work and must pay £85 costs.
As part of the operation, 38 people were questioned in July last year. Of those, 28 have been charged and appeared in court.
Deborah Menell, 49, of College Grove, was given a 12-month community order with 40 hours of unpaid work. Daryl Tong, 23, must complete 80 hours of unpaid work as part of a community order. Both must pay £85 costs.
Four defendants, Donna Walker, Michael Ben Ostler, Luke Braithewaite and Kayleigh Marie Walker, have not entered any pleas to the charges they face.
A warrant was issued for the arrest of Paul Colin Carter after he failed to turn up at court.
The remaining defendants will be sentenced later this month and in March.