A fraudster has been jailed after council inspectors found him living in a converted garden shed while illegally renting the four bedrooms of his council house.
John Gallagher’s shed had an en-suite bathroom and built-in wardrobe so he could live in comfort while he raked in more than £95,000 in benefits from Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) over eight years. It is illegal to sublet social housing.
Mr Gallagher, 64, admitted five counts of fraud and was jailed for 10 months at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday 21 August.
“This is a great result for our excellent fraud team who have removed another cheat from the system,” said Cllr Lisa Homan, H&F Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing.
“The Council’s scarce resources need to be used supporting those with a genuine need and not on scammers like this who waste tax payer’s money.”
Mr Gallagher was the sole tenant of the townhouse in Strode Road, Fulham, where he has lived for more than twenty years, but came to the interest of H&F’s fraud officers after a tip-off.
When inspectors first visited the house, he refused them entry to the garden and shed and stated he didn’t know where the key was to a locked bedroom on the second floor. He said a male friend found in one of the rooms was visiting from east London, but could not provide the officers with his surname or date of birth.
The savvy inspectors later cross-referenced the mobile telephone number Mr Gallagher provided when he had applied for a parking permit against advertising website Gumtree and found adverts for rooms to rent, which the officers recognised as those they had seen earlier.
The property was raided in the early hours of 20 October 2014 and the full scale of the fraud was uncovered.
Mr Gallagher had been renting his rooms out for between £645-£700 per room per month, plus £80-£100 a month towards utilities and deposits of £300-£540 per room.
Sentencing in court last week, Recorder Da Silva QC said the deception had been ‘sophisticated’ and was ‘too serious’ to give a suspended sentence.