Benefit cheat Hatfield couple who worked as cabbies while claiming £50k state handouts spared jail
PUBLISHED: 06:00 06 February 2014
A shamed benefit cheat couple from Hatfield covered their faces as they walked free from court on Friday.
Shameem and Fateha Chowdhury, 46 and 38 respectively, scurried from St Albans Crown Court with coats on their heads, after a judge spared them a jail term despite fleecing the taxpayer out of nearly £50,000, in a two-year benefit fraud.
The married pair worked as taxi drivers while they helped themselves to £33,116 in income support, £12,265 in housing benefit and £3,609 council tax benefit, a staggering total of £48,990.
The con was one of the biggest benefit frauds ever seen in Welwyn Hatfield.
It was also revealed Shameem Chowdhury, of Tiger Moth Way, had a previous conviction for a similar offence in 2000.
The latest fraud took place between September 2007 and December 2009.
Judge Marie Catterson did not jail the shameless pair after hearing mitigation from their defence counsel Shiraz Rustom.
Speaking about his clients, Mr Rustom told the court: “They are not people who are mentally equipped to deal with a prison term.
“They are petrified.”
And he said the couple’s fraud was not deliberate, but an “omission”.
He also said if they were sent to jail they would find it harder to find work in the future and subsequently pay back their ill-gotten gains, which they were currently doing “painfully slowly”, at a rate of £210 per month.
The benefits payments began legitimately when Fateha Chowdhury suffered complications after giving birth by Caesarean section, but she and her husband started working as taxi drivers while still claiming the cash.
It was also revealed they had “deliberately concealed their earnings in a Halifax bank account”.
As part of the mitigation a letter from a PCSO Wallace was passed to the judge in support of the couple.
Summing up, the judge told them: “Your conduct was blatant and persistent dishonesty.
“You were taking scarce public resources to which you were not entitled.”
She sentenced them to an eight month prison term, which was suspended for 18 months and slapped them with 180 hours of unpaid work.
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