Peter and Emmanuel Ikem's £200,000 Government crisis loan con rumbled due to poor spelling
Two brothers who conned the Government into paying nearly £200,000 in hundreds of fraudulent crisis loans were caught after repeatedly making basic spelling errors in their applications.
Peter and Emmanuel Ikem lodged 228 sham applications for emergency loans, designed to help people suddenly made homeless, in a "sophisticated and carefully planned" plot.
Croydon Crown Court heard the pair posed as both tenants and landlords to trick the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) into paying loans totalling £198,000.
Peter Ikem, 31, of Hawthorn Avenue, Thornton Heath, was today jailed for two years after arranging 170 of the fraudulent loans, which saw him pocket £55,000 to fund his cocaine addiction, between March 2011 and September 2012.
His brother, 28, of South Norwood Hill, South Norwood, received a six-month suspended jail term for his role in the scam.
Prosecutor Stephen Hopper told the court the pair recruited hundreds of hard-up accomplices to apply for the loans, which were designed to cover the deposit and first month's rent for tenants forced to find new homes at short notice.
The brothers would phone the DWP posing as the claimant, who would then attend a Jobcentre for an interview, in which they would supply fake details of their supposed new landlord
The brothers would then pose as the landlord and confirm the claimant's account when contacted by DWP staff, each pocketing a third of every loan they helped to arrange.
Mr Hopper said: "They made 228 applications which were subsequently made out to be fraudulent because the applicants never moved house.
"The fraud was aimed directly at the system and demonstrated a knowledge of that system and how they could take advantage of it."
The court heard concerns were raised by DWP fraud investigators who spotted similarities between some of the fake applications, on many of which the word "tenant" was repeatedly spelled wrongly.
More than 40 of the applications lodged by the brothers also said the claimant had been thrown out of their aunt's house after an argument.
Both brothers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud at Croydon Crown Court on February 20.
Nick Wrack, Peter Ikem's defence barrister, told the court today that the father-of-one had spent all of his profits from the fraud on his cocaine and now wanted to get his life back on track.
He said: "Mr Ikem is genuinely remorseful and apologetic and has described his arrest as a wake-up call. In fact he has even said he was glad he was arrested because it has forced him to come to terms with his drug addiction and the related offences and to reassess his relationship."
He added Peter Ikem had was training to be a sports coach and had secured a place at college, which he would lose if he went to prison.
But Judge Warwick McKinnon said the offence was too serious to spare him from jail.
He said: "This sort of deliberate fraud is not the usual type of social security fraud. This is much more in the nature of a professional crime.
"It was sophisticated and carefully planned, although there were aspects that could be described as amateurish."
Addressing Peter Ikem, he said: "I can see that you are taking steps to turn yourself around and you have made good steps in that direction.
"But this offence is so serious that you simply cannot avoid an immediate custodial sentence. It is vital that this sort of offence results in a custodial sentence, both as a punishment and a deterrent."
Emmanuel Ikem, who sobbed as his old brother was sent to the cells, received a six-month jail term suspended for a year for his lesser role in the fraud, in which he submitted 58 fraudulent applications between June 2011 and April 2012.
Judge McKinnon told the 28-year-old he had taken into account that the fraud was committed before his conviction for housing benefit fraud in 2012, adding the two crimes should have been linked and punished jointly.
Mr Ikem was jailed for two years for the housing benefit fraud.
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