Lawyer's daughter jailed for role in pounds 1m benefits fraud

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE DAUGHTER of a wealthy and respected lawyer was jailed for three-and-a-half years today yesterday for her part in a pounds 1m national national massive countrywide social security fraud.

Public school educated Olu Atobatele, 22, regarded as a 'pariah' by her 'shamed' family, took a leading role in a highly sophisticated operation which involved 2,000 false identities and cost the Department of Social Security pounds 1m, Inner London Crown Court was told. It and was the biggest largest benefits conspiracy of its kind in Britain.

The 22-year-old mother of three, Atobatele, whose late father was also a Nigerian tribal chieftain, made bogus claims for pounds 90,000 during the 20-month swindle the largest amount of any of the 11 gang members who have either admitted or were convicted of conspiracy to defraud the DSS. epartment of Social Security. It cost the DSS pounds 1 million in total, but Not all of those involved have been caught.

Passing sentence, Judge Jeffrey Fordham told Atobatele: at Inner London Crown Court: 'What I am dealing with here is systematic dishonesty on a large scale by a number of people, who, including yourself, were intelligent and well educated and leading a comfortable lifestyle in an utterly dishonest way.'

He said it was not possible to know where all the money went, how the scheme was organised and or by whom, but who in his view was 'thoroughly involved in all aspects of the conspiracy'.

The judge said that despite her bogus claims totalling pounds 90,000, he accepted her personal benefit was just over pounds 23,000. He ordered the confiscation of her only assets in Britain pounds 20,675 in a building society account and warned her that another 18 months would be added to her sentence if the amount was not paid.

After praising the fraud investigation team, The judge criticised the apparent failure of DSS safeguards but ease with which it had been carried out.

'The methods were not particularly careful or subtle. I don't know much about the working of the (DSS) systems but I assume there are safeguards there.

'They don't appear to have been adequate or if they were adequate they don't appear to have been operated very effectively.'

Prosecutor Charles Gratwicke, for the prosecution, told him that as a direct result of the conspiracy the DSS had instituted new procedures.

Atobatele, of Ewelme Road, Forest Hill, south-east London, who lived in a house owned bought by her father, bought designer clothes and other luxuries with her illegal gains.

Now a British citizen, she and her brother, who was jailed at a previous hearing for 15 months for his part in the conspiracy, obtained details of students' identities. She also took details from the death register at St Katherine's House, as well as identities from the British and African edition of Who's Who to make more than 240 bogus claims for income support between early 1992 and August last year.