2:30pm Wednesday 9th January 2013
By Neil Vowles
A fraudster and her husband were caught falsely claiming nearly £70,000 in benefits over ten years after council officials read about her previous crimes in The Argus.
Evelyn Girgis and her husband Dr Maher Habib made 32 false claims for council tax, housing benefit and jobseekers’ allowance between them from 2001, despite having multiple saving accounts and owning two properties.
Brighton and Hove City Council officials only began investigating the couple’s claims after reading about Mrs Girgis’ conviction for fraud against her employers Lloyds TSB in 2010 in The Argus.
Sentencing them yesterday (January 8) in Hove Crown Court, Judge Richard Hayward said the pair had “milked the system” and were motivated purely by greed.
Despite making claims that they didn’t have an income, the court heard how the pair had at one point up to twelve bank accounts between them containing savings of up to £48,000.
The couple failed to declare that they owned their own home in Old Shoreham Road, Portslade, that Mrs Girgis jointly owned a property with her sister in St Aubyn’s Road in Fishersgate or that Dr Habib was working as a self-employed interpreter.
The property in Portslade has since suffered extensive damage from a fire and it is thought unlikely that Brighton and Hove City Council can recover any value from the property.
The pair also claimed an additional discretionary housing benefit in November 2003 complaining that the laminate flooring in their home and dust mites were causing problems for their two asthmatic sons.
The couple were using the false benefit claims to meet mortgage payments on their home and to pay off credit card and loan debts totalling £35,000 that they had run up.
Mrs Girgis was given a 12-month suspended sentence in June 2010 at Lewes Crown Court after paying cheques worth £8,300 into her own account that were meant to go to her employer Lloyds TSB in Hove.
The pair both pleaded guilty to 19 charges of false claims for up to £58,000 while Mrs Girgis had five counts for council and housing benefit worth more than £9,000 and nine counts of falsely claiming job seekers allowance totalling more than £2,400.
The pair pleaded guilty to the charges in November and were sentenced yesterday at Hove Crown Court with Mrs Girgis receiving two years and Dr Habib 20 months.
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