Zimbabwean man jailed for £28 0000 benefits fraud

READING, United Kingdom – A Zimbabwean benefits cheat from Reading has been sentenced to 10 months in prison after fraudulently claiming £28,000 in benefits.

Shingirai Zvokunzwa from Wroxeter Court, Newstead Rise, first claimed for housing and Council Tax benefit in August 2006, when he told the Council he was living alone and was in receipt of Job Seekers’ Allowance.

In 2009 the Council received a tip-off that the property Mr Zvokunzwa claimed to be staying at in East Reading was empty and the occupant had in fact moved to Canada. Further enquiries were made into Mr Zvokunzwa, who had told his landlord his name was Tevin Mukonda, which led to a full identity fraud investigation by the Council and DWP.

Following investigation, it was established that Mr Zvokunzwa and Mr Mukonda were in fact the same person and he had changed his name after arriving in the UK from Zimbabwe.

Under the name Tevin Mukonda, Mr Zvokunzwa had received three years of Government education grant in addition to the state and housing benefits he had been claiming for. He had also received a student loan after enrolling as a student at Reading University. Single students with no disabilities, who receive full-time education, cannot qualify for Housing Benefit in the majority of cases.

Further information was obtained on Mr Zvokunzwa via social networking sites, including facebook, and it was unearthed that he had not moved to Canada, as he had told his landlord, but was living in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire.

While living in Milton Keynes, he made a second claim for state benefit under his pseudonym.

With evidence against him, Mr Zvokunzwa was arrested and questioned about the allegations by officers from Reading Borough Council and DWP.

Mr Zvokunzwa was charged with six offences of fraud and appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court on Wednesday, February 2nd, for sentencing, having previously pleaded guilty to all charges made against him. He was handed a 10-month prison term and will be instructed to repay money he had fraudulently obtained from Reading Borough Council.

Andrew Cumpsty, leader of Reading Borough Council, said: "The Council takes matters of benefit fraud extremely seriously and will always take action against people who deliberately defraud the system.

"It is the hard-working silent majority who have to pay for this selfish and greedy behaviour, so it is entirely right these criminals get the full punishment they deserve."