December 9 2013 Latest news:
Kay Atwal, Chief Reporter
Monday, September 30, 2013
A bigamist has been jailed for two and a half years for a “planned and sophisticated” fraud in which she pocketed nearly £150,000.
Rebecca Muwonge ,47, used her 18-year-old niece’s name to enter the UK from Uganda in 1996.
She then claimed £77,000 in benefits from two London councils, the Department of Work and Pensions using her own and her niece’s identity, a court heard.
After pretending she was homeless she was given a council house in Newham and bought it for a heavily discounted price under the Right-to-buy scheme.
Three years later Muwonge, who has five children, sold it back to the council for £187,000, making a ‘tidy profit of £70,500’.
Prosecutor James Thacker told Snaresbrook Crown Court that the total amount she pocketed between 1996 and 2008, was £147, 836. But the true figure could be much higher as some records only go back to 2003.
Muwonge also committed bigamy by marrying three times to assume different identities or get leave to remain in the UK.
In 1996 John Sentamu, who became Archbishop of York in 2005, married Muwonge and Samuel Bisaso in Tulse Hill. Two years later she married him again, this time in her niece’s name assuming the identity of Proscovia Bisaso to claim more benefits.
In 1999, despite never divorcing Bisaso, she married Swiss national Crispine Atessa. Both Muwonge and Bisaso were jailed for 18 months in 2011 for immigration offences involving sham marriages.
But she was brought back before the courts following a joint investigation by Newham and Enfield councils into benefit fraud.
Muwonge admitted two charges of false accounting, failing to notify a change in circumstances to obtain benefit, and obtaining property by deception.
Jeffrey Yearwood, defending, said although the claims were fraudulent from the outset it was Muwonge’s brother-in-law James Kasozi who initially put her up to it and she ‘kept the ball rolling’ because she needed the cash to support her family.
But Judge Louise Kamill said it was a ‘planned, sophisticated and persistent fraud’ which went on for ‘over 11 years.’
She said: “You assumed interchangeable identities as it suited you and you have therefore deceived the London boroughs of Newham and Enfield and the DWP over a long period and advanced it to your advantage in each case.”
Councillor Unmesh Desai, Executive Member for Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour at Newham Council, said: “Our Counter Fraud team has played a pivotal role - by conducting a painstaking and thorough investigation in tandem with other agencies - in bringing Muwonge to book. Now this fraudster has a new home - jail.
“Newham Council has a zero-tolerance approach to fraudulent use of taxpayers’ money. It cannot - and will not - be tolerated under circumstances. We have rigorous systems in place to detect this sort of practice.
“The council constantly reviews its procedures in line with its best practice approach. This case shows that our robust procedures work effectively.”