Jailed: Fraudster who helped phantom students avoid council tax by producing fake certificates from Gants Hill school
- Credit: Archant
A fraudster who helped produced fake student IDs to help people claim council tax discounts has been jailed for 18 months.
Sakiru Oresanwo, 34, mass-produced documents which enabled 23 people to claim to be full-time students in order to avoid paying council tax.
Oresanwo used headed paper from his former workplace EThames Graduate School in Gants Hill and the University of Sunderland’s London campus, where he was then employed as a finance assistant, to foil eight councils.
When he was arrested, enough headed paper was found to create certificates with a potential to deprive councils of upto £3million of council tax.
Investigators from Greenwich Council found a holdall containing 850 sheets of blank headed paper from the EThames Graduate School and over 100 sheets from the University of Sunderland at his home, along with office stamps from both organisations.
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Oresanwo resigned from his post at the University of Sunderland’s London campus in February 2016, shortly after his arrest.
The 34-year-old forger was caught after a member of the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s council tax team queried a student certificate provided by Natasha Mapp, 34, which was supposedly issued by the EThames Graduate School.
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She later provided a replacement certificate purportedly issued by the University of Sunderland’s London campus which was signed by Mr Oresanwo.
The council tax team’s suspicions were referred to the Internal Audit and Anti-Fraud section for further investigation.
Enquiries confirmed that the certificates were fake and that Ms Mapp had never attended EThames Graduate School or the University of Sunderland.
A further 13 fake student certificates supposedly issued by the EThames Graduate School had been submitted to the council with three relating to Mr Oresanwo’s former address in Thamesmead where he had evaded council tax payments of over £4,000.
Oresanwo had also provided a false EThames Graduate School certificate to the Bexley Council in order to avoid paying £1,200 of council tax at his new address in Little Brights Road, Belvedere.
In Woolwich Crown Court, he pleaded guilty to four offences under the Fraud Act 2006 including one of possession of articles for use in fraud and was jailed for 18 months.
Croydon and Medway Council both fell victim to the scam – with the total amount defrauded estimated to be £45,400.
Each authority is recovering the money from residents who provided fake certificates as evidence. In some cases the full amount was paid once the fraud was discovered.
Councillor Maureen O’Mara, cabinet member for customer services and anti-fraud, said: “Oresanwo abused his position as a finance assistant and set out to defraud not only the royal borough of Greenwich but several other local authorities of much needed council tax revenue.
“Had it not been for the Royal Greenwich Council Tax staff member suspecting the student certificate was false and the excellent detective work by our investigators to bring this case to Court, many Local Authorities would have stood to lose a substantial loss of income.”
“I am pleased that the majority of the monies defrauded have now been repaid and that the only thing gained from this despicable crime against the public purse is a jail sentence for Oresanwo and a criminal record for 9 others.”
Oresanwo was sentenced on January 31 for three counts of dishonestly making a false representation under Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 and one count of possession of articles in use in fraud under Section 6 of the Fraud Act 2006.
Natasha Mapp, of Belvedere, whose false student certificate sparked the initial investigation was given a 12 month community order with 80 hours unpaid work.
Segun Efunsiyan, 31, of Dartford, was sentenced to 10 months in prison suspended for two years and a community order with 200 hours unpaid work.
Dorothy Nakawombe, 38, of Belvedere, was given a 12 month community order with 60 hours unpaid work
Nzuzi Manduakila, 34, of Thamesmead, was given a 12 month community order with 120 hours unpaid work.
All of these 5 defendants had pleaded guilty under Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006 of making false declarations to obtain council tax exemptions.
Mr Efunsiyan’s sentence reflected a longer period of fraud and a greater number of false declarations.