Action on grants ring

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

SPECIAL investigators from 12 London councils met Fraud Squad and Department of Social Security officers last week in an effort to break a multi-million pound fraud ring involving bogus student grant applications.

Brent Council, one of the worst affected, has lost pounds 580,000 to conmen who pretended to be taking courses in law or finance, and then disappeared once the grant money had been paid.

Investigators are aware of more than 150 such cases in Brent, each involving thousands of pounds, but suspect that these are just the tip of an iceberg.

Last week's meeting was part of an effort to prevent further frauds in the series, believed to be the work of a highly organised Nigerian ring.

Police have already arrested one man believed to be a kingpin in the scam. Officers who raided his home discovered pounds 100,000 in cash and a filing cabinet full of alphabetically ordered forged identities and exam certificates.

The council investigators are working with police officers to draw up an 'identikit' picture of a typical bogus grant applicant. They are likely to be aged 28 to 33, from overseas or a different borough, with deceased parents and have often worked in the capital's fast-food trade.

Forty per cent of the 150 applications were for a clutch of six universities - North London, Thames Valley, South Bank, East London, Middlesex and Westminster. Another 20 per cent were for Luton College, Greenwich University, Hertfordshire University or the College of North West London.

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