Army chef married to 'powerful conman' jailed over £720k maternity fraud

An Army chef whose husband was the brains behind a plot to pocket £720,000 through a bogus maternity allowance con has been locked up.

Wolverhampton Crown Court where the case was heard
Wolverhampton Crown Court where the case was heard

At least 167 fake applications for the benefit payout were made after a criminal gang hijacked the identities of innocent women during a four-year long fraud, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

Around £450,000 was paid into bank accounts controlled or used by those involved in the racket, including nine people with Black Country addresses, revealed prosecutor Mr Simon Hunka.

Other attempts made by them were identified as frauds by Department of Work and Pension officials and not paid, the court heard.

Chef Laura Baza was living with her husband at Regan Drive, Oldbury, when the racket started.

Her husband, who is now said to be a “powerful, well connected” individual in Malawi, is alleged to have been the brains of the con.

Baza filled in bogus forms using four false names throughout the money-spinning con that ran from 2011 to 2015, while at least £75,000 went through her bank accounts.

'Married to the beating heart'

Blank maternity allowance claim forms were found on the dining room table in the couple's home in Regan Drive, while more were stored on computers seized from the Army barracks in Oakham, Rutland, where they were staying when the racket was uncovered by DWP investigators.

Mr Hunka maintained: “She was married to the beating heart of the conspiracy.

"The fact she filled out some of the forms is an indication of how close to the centre of the conspiracy she was.”

The couple had a notebook headed: ‘Get Rich or Die Trying: A master plan of Henry and Laura’ which contained details of the plot and was found in their car.

Miss Katya Saudek, defending, said Baza’s husband was a "dishonest and despicable" man who had a "controlling" relationship.

Baza denied conspiracy to defraud but was convicted after a trial and sentenced to two years and eight months behind bars.

A dozen people, including the nine with Black Country address, were convicted of the same charge at an earlier hearing Ten of them were jailed.

Baza’s husband is now a “powerful, well connected” individual in Malawi, it was claimed.

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