Primary school teacher avoids jail after £40k benefits con
Olamide Ononeme went on family holidays to Egypt, America and Turkey and built up a bank account balance of £21,500
A primary school teacher who fraudulently claimed almost £40,000 while failing to notify the authorities her husband was living with her has avoided jail.
Olamide Ononeme went on family holidays to Egypt, America and Turkey and built up a bank account balance of £21,500 while carrying out the fraud.
The 42-year-old claimed tax credit payments on the basis she was a single mother of three over three years, despite her husband living at the home in Gough Drive in Tipton.
In total, she claimed £37,859 from November in 2011 to October in 2014.
Wolverhampton Crown Court heard how she was caught out when investigators found a Facebook picture of Olamide and her husband Aruoriwo celebrating their 13th wedding anniversary.
Recorder Anupama Thompson gave mother-of-three Olamide a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 24 months, and ordered she do 150 hours unpaid work.
Olamide had pleaded guilty to one count of fraud at an earlier hearing.
Her husband, 47, who siphoned thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money while working as benefits officer for Sandwell and Walsall Council, was jailed for 30 months last month.
Sentencing Olamide yesterday, Mrs Thompson said: “You made a claim for tax credit when your husband left in 2011.
“It seems he returned after and rather than telephoning the authority as you knew you had a duty to do, you continued to claim tax credits.
“It went on for a period of almost three years.”
Caroline Harris, prosecuting, said Olamide had opportunities to notify the authorities when calling up to alert a change in her income in 2013 and 2014.
She said her bank balance went up from £2,500 in 2012 to £21,500 in 2014.
The family also went on holidays to Egypt, America and Turkey, she said.
Tariq Shakoor, defending, said Olamide, who works at a school in Wolverhampton, was not living a living a lavish lifestyle on the proceeds.
He added: “She let herself down because she is a lady of strong Christian values. She is remorseful.”
The Facebook picture which revealed the fraud showed the couple and came with a caption written by Aruoriwo saying ‘To God be the glory for 13 glorious, fruitful and happy years of marriage today’.
The joyous words were entered on his Facebook page for all to see on October 9 2012 - 11 months after Olamide had started claiming tax credit on the basis that she was a single mother.
Years later the post helped to prove his wife pocketed tens of thousands of pounds by lying about the state of their marriage when Department of Work and Pensions investigators launched an inquiry on behalf of the Revenue and Customs following a tip off.
The defendant phoned tax credit officials in December 2013 and December 2014 to discuss changes in her personal circumstances without admitting she and her husband were living together in Gough Drive, Tipton.
She also failed to tell the truth when filling in annual declaration forms.
Her husband used the address as his own for financial matters such as a mortgage application on March 20 2014 and Walsall Council confirmed he gave the house in Gough Road as his home while working for them.
To make it worse for the corrupt couple he used his position as a finance officer to defraud both Walsall and Sandwell councils out of more than £15,000.
Aruoriwo was employed by both at different times through an agency between 2007 and 2011, before getting a job as a benefits appeal officer with Walsall Council.
He used his knowledge of the system to create fake characters - one of whom was supposed to be Wolverhampton University student and the other supposedly lived at the buy-to-let flat he owned in St Michael’s Street, Walsall - to make bogus claims in their names for single person council tax exemption and housing benefit.
He pleaded guilty to two counts of abusing his position by 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.
The Crown Prosecution Service will now decide if they want to pursue the money claimed by Olamide.