This is Bristol
Thursday, November 15, 2012
By Geoff Bennett
A BRITISH citizen who posed as a struggling asylum seeker so he could claim more than £10,000 in crisis loans has been jailed.
Persistent benefits cheat Mohammed Hassan, 36, drew the repayable funds saying he was an asylum seeker struggling with gas and electricity bills.
In fact, former bus driver Hassan was using the money to support his family in the UK and back in Somalia.
Bristol Crown Court heard that Hassan worked with five other men to get crisis loans from the Department of Work and Pensions, without intending to pay them back.
He was arrested in Bristol after the Department for Work and Pensions became suspicious that he was part of a gang of fraudulent claimants.
Hassan, of Fraser Court, St Giles Close, Hounslow, admitted fraud by false representation, involving £10,882, between January and August 2012 and was jailed for 12 months.
The court heard he offended just four months after being released from a 12-month prison sentence for fraudulently obtaining £45,000 in benefits.
Judge David Ticehurst told him: "Four months after your release you were at it again – stealing money from this country; stealing money from those in desperate straits and who desperately needed that money."
Mary Cowe, prosecuting, said Hassan was arrested in Bristol after making applications for crisis loans in London.
She said: "When police called on him he ran away and dropped three bank cards in the name of Ibrahim.
"He was interviewed and said he worked with five other men to get crisis loans from the Department for Work and Pensions, without intending to pay them back.
"He accepted joint responsibility for all the money and said he would obtain £90 from £300 or £400 at a time.
"He is a British citizen and therefore his account of being an asylum seeker, struggling with gas and electricity, is false."
The court heard Hassan arrived in the UK in 1990, sought asylum in 1991, committed his first criminal offence in 1994 and was granted British citizenship in 2000.
Jane Chamberlain, defending, said her client's previous jail sentence was for fraudulently obtaining £45,000 in benefits.
She said: "He was making those claims having been working hard as a bus driver.
"He supported his family well but was convicted of failing to provide a specimen of breath.
"Because of the stresses of life he was drinking more than he should.
"He refused the specimen and lost his employment.
"It was then difficult to support his family in this country and family in Somalia."
Miss Chamberlain said her client hoped to reapply for his driving licence and realised if he didn't change his ways he would be in a cycle of returning to prison "over and over again".