£1m fraudster told to pay back cash

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A FRAUDSTER from Port Mulgrave who amassed more than £1m from his crimes has been ordered to pay more than half of it back in a year.

Dennis Morris (59) of Low Road was found to have benefited by £1,060,000 and was given a confiscation order of £544,896.57, or face being jailed for a further three years at Sheffield Crown Court last Tuesday.

Morris was given a four-year prison sentence back in September 2010, after a three-year joint fraud investigation into his crimes by North Yorkshire and South Yorkshire Police with help from the North East Regional Asset Recovery Team.

It was sparked after Scarborough Borough Council were told by North Yorkshire Police of a possible housing benefit fraud in the Whitby area.

The benefits cheat was at the centre of a serial fraud involving two other people.

Morris had claimed he had been living with his partner but instead he had pretended to be her landlord since 1984.

Following his arrest back in October 2007, various documents including driving licences and financial reports, were seized by police which showed he was using identities in the Sheffield area and claiming benefits himself.

Police found that Morris’ accomplices Susan Clarke (51), who has served her 21 month prison sentence, and her long-term partner David Smith (58), both of Mortomley Lane in Sheffield, who was sentenced to four and half years in prison, were connected to the addresses that had been used by Morris.

Smith was ordered to pay back £409,465.34 of the £996,103 he had benefited from due to his part in the fraud while his partner Clarke, who reaped in £179,333 in benefits, was ordered to pay back £210.75 in seven days or face a further three months in prison.

After the pair’s arrest in December 2008, it was discovered that the attic of a derelict property in Mortomley Lane had been used as a makeshift office and was the “nerve centre for fraud.”

From the outside it looked like an everyday, stone-built detached house but inside, it was virtually stripped bare – until detectives and search experts climbed a ladder to the loft, which had well-organised filing cabinets and shelving containing details of dozens of false identities which they had either brought or rented to obtain credit and bank accounts under false names.

They also obtained driving licences and bought vehicles under their false identities.

The trio were found to have used 185 different identities and held more than 300 bank and credit card accounts over the years.

In total, the conspiracy had netted the defendants around £1m from numerous financial institutions and more than £300,000 in state benefits.

Amongst the properties that were identified, 17 had been bought by the defendants, some of which were in false names while offshore trusts and properties in France were also discovered. All the assets that were identified are now the subject of restraining orders.

From the available funds due to be recovered from the Confiscation Orders, Sheffield Crown Court awarded compensation of £57,584.27 to Scarborough Borough Council, £39,614.55 to Sheffield Council and £49,758.86 to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Detective inspector Ian Wills, head of North Yorkshire Police’s Economic Crime Unit said: “The confiscation orders bring to a conclusion an investigation that grew out of a joint investigation with Scarborough Borough Council into a fraudulent housing benefit claim.

“I would like to congratulate the tenacity and skill of all the staff involved in identifying and bringing this sophisticated identity fraud to a successful conclusion.