Tara Chalk, 47, pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud relating to sub-letting her council owned flat at Elmore House on the Loughborough Estate and making a false claim for a Single Persons Discount, after an investigation by Lambeth council officers.
Now the council will seek to claim back all the money she made through the fraud, via the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Council investigators found that Chalk was living in a house in Harrow, with her partner and child, and not as a single person in Elmore House as she had claimed.
When faced with the overwhelming evidence, she admitted that she had not lived at the council flat for eight years and had been subletting it periodically during that time.
In court, Lambeth council representatives explained that this fraud had resulted in personal gain for Chalk, while vulnerable and needy families had been housed in temporary accommodation at great cost to the council.
Word from the Cabinet
Cllr Matthew Bennett, Cabinet Member for Housing, said: “This deception is morally reprehensible, not only costing the council tens of thousands of pounds and pocketing illegitimate money for herself, but also making the already terrible housing crisis in our city, even worse.
“The work of our officers in uncovering this fraud shows that these fraudsters will not get away with this type of behaviour – we will find them and prosecute them.
“We have more than 22,000 people on our housing waiting list in this borough and we are determined to do everything we can to help those in need of a safe, secure home.”
Investigators found that Chalk ran the subletting in an organised way, keeping detailed records for her numerous sub-tenants, and using websites including Gumtree and SpareRoom.co.uk to advertise the property.
At Inner London Crown Court on November 2, His Honour Judge Wood QC, told Chalk that the case was serious as it went on over many years, and made the point that upon investigation she lied and persuaded another (her current sub-tenant) to lie for her too rather than give the property back straight away. The judge also commented that it was right for the public to know that behaviour like hers would normally result in one going straight to prison, however having listened to submissions and giving credit for her early guilty plea, the Judge was “just persuaded” to suspend the sentence.
Chalk was given a 2-year custodial sentence, suspended for 20 months.
The court found that Tara Chalk had profited from sub-letting the Council property, and also noted that as well as living in the family home in Harrow, Chalk appeared to own a different house in Bromley.
A timetable was set to implement a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) investigation – whereby the Council will seek to recover the loss to the public purse, as well as taking back any profit made by Chalk from this long running crime. The POCA timetable will now stretch into the new year.