Police quiz 38 over major benefit fraud scam
DETECTIVES have quizzed 38 people after a major investigation into a suspected benefit fraud scam.
Police believe the suspects have been altering benefit cheques to fraudulently claim tens of thousands of pounds.
Three prison inmates have also been arrested and questioned.
The arrests have followed a lengthy investigation by detectives from Humberside Police and the fraud investigation department of Jobcentre Plus, part of the Department for Work and Pensions.
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A source said: "The suspects are believed to have been altering benefit cheques and cashing them for a higher value than the original amount.
"Clearly, there are a lot of people involved in this and whether they have all been working together is a key part of the investigation.
"There have been a number of arrests and voluntary interviews."
Humberside Police confirmed 17 people have been arrested, 18 were interviewed voluntarily and three serving prisoners were also quizzed.
All were questioned on suspicion of conspiring to commit benefit fraud.
Officers from the Park neighbourhood policing team have carried out a series of arrests in east Hull in recent weeks following months of investigations into the suspected fraud.
Undercover officers from the force have also been involved in tracing suspects.
The source said files have now been passed to lawyers at the Crown Prosecution Service who will decide whether any charges can be brought against them.
It is understood 35 suspects will return to Humberside Police headquarters in west Hull next month to discover their fate.
Officers will also visit the serving prisoners when a decision has been made.
A spokesman for Humberside Police said: "Joint working between Humberside Police and the Department for Work and Pensions resulted in 38 people being questioned over alleged benefit fraud in the city.
"Officers from the Park neighbourhood policing team played a big role in arresting suspected fraudsters in east Hull, working with other strands of the police force and staff from the fraud investigation department of Jobcentre Plus to trace potential suspects."
Jobcentre Plus is the Government agency responsible for advising and assisting benefit claimants. It also administers claims for Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance.
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We've been working closely with Humberside Police on this joint operation and our investigations continue.
"Anyone who suspects someone is fraudulently claiming benefits can call our National Benefit Fraud hotline. Calls are treated in total confidence."
The Jobcentre Plus delivery plan for 2011-12 says it is working to reduce benefit fraud.
It says: "The Department for Work and Pensions has a strategic objective to administer benefits effectively and efficiently.
"We will contribute towards this objective by reducing the amounts lost to fraud and error made from the administration of Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance."
• The National Benefit Fraud hotline can be reached on 0800 854440. Lines are open from 7am to 11pm every day.
Anyone who suspects benefit fraud can also visit www.direct. gov.uk/fraud to report it online.