'Father of 36' jailed for benefit fraud

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The Independent Online

A married father-of-two was jailed for 13 months today after fraudulently claiming almost £80,000 in benefits for 36 children.

Irvin Fraser, 30, from Aberdeen, admitted claiming child tax credits over three years, costing the public purse £79,718.

The recovering heroin addict began the scheme to feed his habit, Aberdeen Sheriff Court heard.

His scam went undetected by the Department of Work and Pensions - despite four of the claims being made for the same children.

Fraser's lawyer, Shane Campbell, told the court: "It may be as a result of this particular case that the DWP, I'm sure, will have revisited their methods of keeping a check and verifying claims of this particular nature.

"But that's how easy it was for him to become involved."

Fraser admitted making the fraudulent claims in writing and over the phone between November 2003 and June 2006. The claims were made in four different names and began with a claim for an extra two children.

All the payments were made into the same bank account.

By September 2005 he was claiming for 14 children, spiralling to 36 by the time he was questioned by HM Revenue and Customs investigators.

The court heard he admitted during an interview to signing forms his partner had completed and to making phone calls in relation to the claims.

Prosecutors accepted a not guilty plea by co-accused Annette Fraser.

Sheriff Alexander Jessop said: "It seems surprising that you can simply phone up and children can be added ... and then payments can be made into a bank account for 36 children and no checks are made."

The sheriff added: "The children didn't even exist - don't you need a birth certificate or something?"

Sentencing Fraser to 13 months, he told him: "I can't ignore the fact that this was a sustained form of fraudulent activity which resulted in £70,718 being obtained by you from public funds."

Mr Campbell said Fraser began making the fake claims after a friend told of success in getting cash.

At the time he was using £150-£200 worth of heroin daily, he said.

He said: "Someone had indicated to him that they too had made such a claim that was fake and resulted in a payment being made by the DWP without any real investigation or difficulty.

"That seems to have sown the seed in the mind of Mr Fraser.

"As a result of that he made a fake claim and, sure enough, without any particularly stringent investigation on the part of the DWP, that application was processed and granted and the money was paid into the bank account.

"If you look through the various applications made, some are made in writing but the majority are made by a phone call.

"A conversation takes place, the accused provides ... the details of the child, and he's told OK, it's been approved and the money will be paid into your bank account."

Mr Campbell said: "If you put a child in a sweet shop and say don't touch anything and leave them alone, with the greatest will in the world the child is not going to resist temptation to put their hand in the jar."

The lawyer disputed a social inquiry report that stated that Fraser, of Aberdeen's Torry area, did not think his crime had any victims.

He said: "He accepts that there were victims of this case.

"As a result of the substantial media coverage Mr Fraser has had to deal with a substantial amount of ill feeling, particularly within his own area.

"It's not surprising they are less than happy regarding his conduct ... made clear to him on numerous occasions when he's felt safe to leave his home as it were."