Latvian landlady jailed after claiming £33,000 benefits while owning six properties worth £1.1m
A benefits cheat has been jailed after claiming more than £33,000 in state handouts despite owning a £1.1 million property portfolio.Latvian landlady Julija Freiberga, 38, fleeced the taxpayer by claiming she was unemployed and owned only one property, despite secretly earning up to £60,000 a year in rent from her six properties.
She was so adept at playing the system that since being caught out by investigators from the Department for Work & Pensions a further four properties, including two in her native country, have come to light.
Yesterday she began a 16-month jail sentence after a judge said she was guilty of “truly audacious dishonesty” in what was “a completely unique case”.
Freiberga, who came to the UK in 1999, claimed income support, jobseekers’ allowance, council tax credit and housing benefit, sometimes using her ex-husband’s surname of Tanusi to beat the system, Blackfriars Crown Court in London was told.
Stephen Hopper, prosecuting, said that when the fraud began in May 2005 she filled in benefits claims saying she had no job and no home, despite owning a house in Shoreditch, East London and having a £38,000-a-year job as a lifeguard.
Over the following four years she fraudulently claimed £33,324 in benefits while secretly expanding her property empire.
During that time she had bought a house in Peterborough, Cambs., for £299,100, another in Lincoln for £131,750, a flat in Ilford, Essex, for £245,895, a flat in Enfield, Middlesex, for £166,950 and two flats in north London for £310,000.
Mr Hopper said: “During that period, she was earning [rental] income in the order of £50,000 to £60,000 a year, and that is according to her own accounts.
“On each and every claim, it was stated that Ms Freiberga was not working.
“The Crown say this was fraudulent from the outset.”
He added that the use of her ex-husband's surname was a “deliberate attempt to disguise the fact that there had been other claims in another name”.
In mitigation Tony Wyatt said Freiberga had become trapped in a “vicious circle” after buying the houses with mortgages that she could not afford to repay.
But Judge Aidan Marron QC said he rejected her defence “in its entirety” after Freiberga, of Holloway, north London, pleaded guilty to 16 counts of making a false statement to obtain benefits.
He told her she was guilty of “systematic dishonesty over a protracted period, during which time you were accumulating a significant property portfolio and generating a significant rental income.
“This is, in my experience, a completely unique case.
“Notwithstanding the very respectable income which you enjoyed, you persisted in your dishonesty, on occasions using an alias to get benefits to which you were not entitled.
“You were affluent compared to other people who engaged in this sort of offence, and this in my judgement is truly audacious dishonesty.”
The court was told that Freiberga was now claiming benefits legitimately, but a search of Land Registry records shows she still owns the six properties.
On July 11, 2010, she even signed an online petition protesting about cuts in benefit payments, saying: “I believe it’s ridiculous to reduce the housing benefit allowances when the rent is not going down.”