Members of a Romanian-based gang who illegally claimed £800,000 in housing benefit, tax credits, income support and child benefit payments have been jailed for a total of 10 years.
Nine people were sentenced yesterday at Southwark Crown Court for their part in a gang which police believe trafficked 181 children to Britain to claim benefits, which they then spent in their home town of Tandarei in south-east Romania.
Gang leader Telus Dumitru was sentenced to 4 years 8 months’ imprisonment, while Ramona Dumitru was sentenced to 1 year 8 months, Ion Lincan received 4 weeks, Marian Gheogrhe received 2 years 4 months, Dorina Dumitru received 9 months, Claudia Radu received 6 months, Ion Stoica received 6 months, and Adrain Radu received 12 months.
They used forged papers to obtain National Insurance numbers so they could claim benefits. Claudia Radu would fly from Romania regularly to claim benefits, the court heard.
Judge Gregory Stone said: ‘This was a major undermining of the UK benefits system. It was a professional fraud that occurred over a significant time frame and resulted in a very serious loss to the UK authorities.’
The gang members were caught as part of the Metropolitan Police’s Operation Golf, which worked with Romanian National Police to tackle a large organised crime network which trafficked and exploiting children from the Romanian Roma community.
To date, 104 people have been arrested and 76 convicted as part of the operation for trafficking offences, child cruelty, conspiracy to defraud, falsely claiming benefit, theft and money laundering.
Chief Inspector Colin Carswell, deputy head of Operation Golf, said: ‘Telus Dumitru and the other defendants are all members of a Romanian-based criminal gang who defrauded the UK tax payer of a significant amount of money.
‘This was a professional attack on the UK benefits system that has diverted large sums away from those who truly need it.’