Sandwell and Walsall Council benefits officer jailed over £15k fraud
A crooked benefits officer who siphoned thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash into a secret bank account after creating a fake identity has been jailed.
Aruoriwo Ononeme abused his position to defraud both Sandwell and Walsall councils whilst employed by them as a benefits officer, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The father-of-three, from Tipton, used his knowledge of the system to con his bosses, creating a false NHS medical card in someone else’s name and a University of Wolverhampton letter to back up his fraudulent claims which totalled more than £15,000.
Employed by an agency, Ononeme worked for both local authorities at different times between 2007 – 2011, eventually getting a job directly with Walsall Council as a benefits appeals officer.
At Sandwell Council, the 47-year-old claimed single person council tax exemption of £3,295 in the name of Aziz Mohammed Hussain, supposedly a student at Wolverhampton University.
He forged supporting documents, the letter and medical card, by making amendments to original copies on his computer, the court heard.
At Walsall Council, he set up a tenancy in the name of Ahmed Hussain, a fictitious person, giving the address of a buy-to-let flat in St Michael’s Street, Walsall, which he owned, and claimed more than £12,000 in housing benefit paid into a personal TSB account.
He again created false documents such as pay slips to back up the claim.
Mr Delroy Henry, prosecuting, said: “This defendant acquired a significant amount of knowledge as a finance officer of the way in which the benefits system works and claims are authorised.
"That was put to unlawful use when he worked for Walsall and Sandwell Councils."
The court heard Ononeme, of previous good character, has since set up the Nissi Homes charity for ex-prisoners, vulnerable adults and recovering addicts in the Black Country.
In his defence, Ms Samantha Powis said he had been motivated to defraud after falling on hard times following several periods of unemployment but had since turned his life around.
He and his wife had suffered marital problems and split up but were now back together, the court heard.
"As a result, he became a committed Christian and put his time and knowledge to good use in setting up Nissi Homes. These offences are old and things have changed dramatically since," said Ms Powis.
Ononeme, of Gough Drive, pleaded guilty to two counts of abusing his position in fraudulently claiming housing benefit, two charges of creating false documents, two offences of failing to disclose he was living as a married rather than a single man and one count of falsely claiming he was leaving the UK to live in the United Arab Emirates.
He was sentenced to 30 months in prison.
In a separate case, his wife Olamide Ononeme, 42, of the same address, has pleaded guilty to knowingly being involved in fraudulent activities regarding tax credits.
A trial of issue over the amount involved is due to take place at a date to be fixed.