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Plaistow asylum seeker jailed over £413,913 benefits fraud

18:00 26 September 2012

A nursing assistant pocketed more than £400,000 in benefits and illegal earnings after her application for asylum was turned down three times, a court heard.

Fanta Sesay, 41, of Jenkins Road, Plaistow, raked in housing and council tax benefits while working at Homerton University Hospital and St Thomas’ Hospital in south London.

The mother-of-two was paid £450 a week in benefits from 2005 until April this year to net nearly £180,000.

Sesay also used false names and national insurance numbers to obtain work and earn more than £230,000 fraudulently since 2003.

Inner London Crown Court heard Sesay originally came to the country from Sierra Leone as an asylum seeker.

After a third asylum application was rejected she married a British citizen in 2005. She was then granted indefinite leave to stay in the UK.

Sesay, who claimed she spent most of the cash on providing for her two children in Sierra Leone, was jailed for 28 months.

Judge Roger Chapple had remarked: “This is really unfortunately, a very extensive deception involving her lifestyle. The thrust of this letter is that she did what she did in order to provide for her children.”

“It was not necessary, I would have thought, to do what she did in order to provide for her children. I say that because there are numerous examples of people who do not resort to this sort of activity and are able to provide for their children.”

Sonal Dashani, prosecuting, said: “This is clearly a fraud that was fraudulent from the outset. It was over a significant period of time, some nine years in total, starting in 2003 when she applied for work at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital.”

“She was not entitled to public funds nor was she entitled to work,” she added. “The national insurance number given to Homerton Hospital doesn’t actually exist. It is one digit out and is in fact allocated to a 16-year-old boy.”

Her second national insurance number belonged to man born in 1979, she told the court.

“She used these false national insurance numbers to hide her true identity and to avoid being detected for the benefits that she was claiming,” Ms Dashani added. “The total value of this fraud is £413,913.”

Sesay was caught after an investigation by police, the NHS and HMRC.

Ms Dashani said: “It seems the money paid was withdrawn in cash and either spent or sent to Sierra Leone.

“Any attempts to retrieve it would be a fruitless and expensive exercise.”

Rebecca Randall, defending, said: “She has not seen her children since she has been in custody as they are in Sierra Leone. If they were to return, social services are likely to get involved and that brings home the matter to her.”

Ms Randall added that Sesay was remorseful.

“She accepts that potentially her life in the UK is now over,” she said.

Sentencing, Judge Lindsay Burn told Sesay: “I have to sentence you for what I regard as being a very serious fraud.

“In over a period of nine years you obtained a little over £400,000 in monies you were not entitled to.

“Many members of the public would be concerned that a person who was caring for them had got the job under a false identity with no checks carried out.”

Sesay, admitted two counts of dishonestly making false representations to obtain benefits in respect of council tax and housing benefit. She admitted being knowingly concerned with fraudulent activity, obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception and fraud by false representation.

Sesay denied theft of medicines from Homerton and the charge will lie on file. Officials are probing the legitimacy of her marriage and she could still face deportation.

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