An HMRC investigation into an organised crime group who used the stolen identities of public sector employees in a complex plot to attempt to claim £10.2m in tax credits has resulted in jail terms and suspended sentences for four of the six people involved, with two still on the run
Adedamola Oyebode, from Lewisham in London, worked as an events and marketing assistant for the Civil Service Sports Council (CSSC). In April and June 2009, she accessed the CSSC’s password protected membership system and stole personal details of 10,300 members.
The data stolen related to 10% of its membership, which is mainly civil servants but also includes some armed forces and police force personnel, local authority employees, members of parliament, and retired public servants.
Oyebode then passed the data to her brother-in-law, Oluwatobi Odeyemi, known as Emmanuel, from Gravesend, Kent. HMRC says he was a key facilitator in the criminal operation, managing the stolen data used to make false tax credits claims.
Odeyemi’s friend, Kayode Sanni, of Leeds, ensured the stolen data was used to apply for tax credits. He recruited and managed a friend, Chantelle Gumbs, whose job was to request the tax credits application packs from HMRC used to make fraudulent tax credits claims. The gang completed the forms, adding details of bank accounts that had been set up to commit the fraud, and returned them to HMRC.
Of the 10,300 identities stolen, 2,504 were used to make fraudulent tax credits claims resulting in £2.4m being paid out. Further claims were made but not paid. Had the fraud not been uncovered and stopped, HMRC estimates that at least another £7.8m would have been paid to the criminals, leading to a total attempted fraud of £10.2m.
The scam was uncovered in late 2009 by HMRC’s identity fraud and risk teams concerned about the volume of new claims for civil servants, predominately for working tax credits. Their initial enquiries also highlighted potential sources of a data leak.
HMRC began a criminal investigation in April 2010. Investigators analysed huge amounts of information, including tax credits records, recordings of phone calls to the tax credits helpline, banking data, notebooks, diaries, computer, email, and data storage devices, and mobile phone, text message and telephone records. An expert voice analyst gave evidence during Kayode Sanni’s trial.
Following a trial at the Old Bailey, Sanni was jailed for five years and three months, with the judge telling him ‘the only remorse is that you got caught’, and Odeyemi for three and a half years. Oyebode was sentenced to two years, suspended for two years must complete 160 hours of unpaid community work and is subject to a three month curfew. Gumbs was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for two years, and also received a rehabilitation order.
Simon York, Director of HMRC’s Fraud Investigation Service, said: ‘These criminals launched an organised attack on the tax credits system, a system designed to help some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
‘Thanks to the experience of HMRC's officers, the effectiveness of our counter-fraud checks, and an extremely complex criminal investigation, the fraud was stopped and HMRC prevented £8m of false claims being paid to the criminals.’
HMRC say they believe the fraudsters conspired with two others who are on-the-run, and are appealing for information on their whereabouts. Emmanuel Odeyemi’s brother Oluwagbenga Odeyemi, known as Stephen, and Stephen’s wife Oluwatumininu Banjo, also known as Tumi, are thought to be in Nigeria.