Merton Council takes benefit fraudster to court

A 69-year-old man who admitted defrauding Merton Council of more than £12,000 has escaped jail and been tagged by Wimbledon Magistrates Court instead. He has also been forbidden to leave his home between 9pm and 7am for six months.

Alagaratnam Thangarajah, of Gorringe Park Avenue, Mitcham, was also ordered to pay the council’s court costs of £955.

The court heard how Thangarajah lied to Merton Council when he claimed he was not related to his landlord – even though he was living with his daughter and her husband, his son-in-law. At one point he even stated he had never met his daughter.

Thangarajah made four applications for housing benefit between December 2001 and October 2003 and was paid £12,310.50 over a period of four years. He was not entitled to any of the benefit due to his close relationship with the home’s owners.

After Merton Council discovered his fraud Thangarajah said he had acted because his daughter had a heavy mortgage and needed rent from the room he lived in.

Thangarajah is now paying back the benefit money he owes.

Merton Council deputy leader and cabinet member for corporate resources Samantha George said:

“We want to stress Merton Council will not tolerate fraud by anyone, whoever they are or whatever their circumstances. The court decided to be lenient when sentencing Thangarajah. He escaped jail for a number of reasons and because he showed remorse and pleaded guilty at the first chance he got. But he was still punished with a strict curfew order.

“We are committed to providing value for money for our residents and this means making sure money is well-spent and any fraud or abuse of the benefit system is discovered and stopped.”