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LOUGHTON: Apprentice star guilty of benefit fraud
6:33pm Friday 28th November 2008 in Where I Live
APPRENTICE star Tre Azam has been found guilty of defrauding thousands of pounds from the district council.
Azam, of Nevill Way, in Loughton, made false statements on housing and council tax benefits worth £8,686.
The 29-year-old, who appeared on the Apprentice last year, began claiming housing benefit and council tax benefits from Epping Forest District Council in 2004.
On March 31, 2006, he declared three bank accounts and stated that his and his wife’s only income were working tax credits and child tax credits.
The next day he signed a self-employment form declaring he was going to trade as Ayaan Media, but had not yet traded or received income.
An investigation by district council officers discovered that Azam held an undeclared HSBC bank account and had access to a Barclays bank account held in his father’s name, Mohammed Ali Azam.
Invoices sent to a number of organisations were also found from a company called ID Consultants which was registered at Azam’s property.
The invoices had been paid into the Barclays account, and it was discovered that work for the invoiced companies had been carried out before March 31, 2006.
Further investigations found that £500 had been transferred from the ID Consultants bank account to an HSBC account held by Azam’s wife on November 22, 2005.
Azam and his wife also used money obtained from the ID consultants/Barclays account to fund their lifestyle.
The reality TV star had failed to notify the council of any of the changes in circumstances, and at Chelmsford Magistrates Court today (November 28) he was found guilty of the three charges against him.
He was sentenced to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work in the community and ordered to pay the council’s prosecution costs of £6,859.
Azam is currently appealing to the Housing Benefits Appeals tribunal against the Council’s decision that he has been overpaid Benefit of more than £7,000.
Councillor Mitch Cohen, portfolio holder for legal services at Epping Forest District Council, said: “Benefit cheats might have you believe it is not really a serious crime. That is just not true. They are defrauding millions of honest, hardworking families struggling to make ends meet but still paying their taxes.
“Housing benefit is for those people who genuinely need help. We work hard at Epping Forest District Council to uncover fraud. We will not hesitate to prosecute those who are claiming benefits falsely. I hope this sends out a message to other would-be benefit cheat, sooner or later, we will catch you.”