A former council worker who claimed nearly £7,000 in benefits by posing as his NEIGHBOUR for over two years has walked free from court.
Mohammed Chowdary, 37, even visited doctors pretending to be neighbour Ifzal Hussain to get sick notes to support his fraudulent claim.
Between July 2013 and December last year he falsely claimed £6,912 in housing and employment benefits intended for Mr Hussain.
He was rumbled when Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) investigators found two benefit claims in different names were being made from Chowdary’s home in Sparkhill, Birmingham.
The investigation discovered both claims were being paid into Chowdary’s Halifax bank account.
Chowdary, who worked for Birmingham City Council for ten years, admitted false representation after initially blaming Mr Hussain, who he accused of being a bully and drug addict.
But Chowdary, a former heroin addict, was spared jail after a judge told him there was “no point in the government paying his board and lodging.”
Judge Mary Stacey sentenced him to 13-and-a-half months in prison, suspended for two years and ordered him to do 120 hours unpaid work and be placed under curfew for six weeks.
Sentencing Chowdary at Birmingham Crown Court, Judge Stacey told him: “You perpetuated a benefit fraud between July 2013 and December 2015.
“You did so by taking advantage of a friend and neighbour, claiming on his behalf, using his identity which involved you going to his doctor, pretending to be him and getting sick notes to claim employment support allowance.
“He had no idea this was happening.
“When the police caught up with you, you added insult to injury by pretending you were somehow afraid of this man and he bullied you into it, some nonsensical story.
“You also gave the probation officer a fictional account that you were helping your friend and that you would pass the money on to him which was a complete lie.
“You then accused him of being a drug user.
“You have got previous convictions but none for fraud.
“You have also had opportunities. You worked for Birmingham City Council for ten years until you were made redundant five years ago.
“You are taking steps to address your addiction.
“In light of your mitigation and that prison will do no-one any good I’m going to suspend the sentence for a period of two years.
“There is no point paying your board and lodging when the government has already been defrauded.
“You are lucky the sentence has been suspended.
“If you commit further offences the prospect is you will serve some or all of that sentence.
“I know that is a stiff punishment, it is the only way I can find to suspend the sentence.
“I can tell you it’s a lot better than the alternative.”
The court heard Mr Hussain had legitimately tried to claim benefits but had received no money into his bank account because of Chowdary’s fraudulent claim.
As part of the investigation, DWP caught Chowdary on CCTV entering Sparkhill Job Centre and presenting staff with ID documents in the name of Mr Hussain.
Documents with Mr Hussain’s name were later recovered from Chowdary’s address.
Gurdeep Garcha, defending, said Chowdary appeared in court free from drugs for the first time in three years.
He said: “The prospect is this is a man who has put heroin behind him, in other senses he is and intelligent young man.”