Housing fraudster jailed after three years on run

A woman who claimed benefits from two councils at the same time before disappearing for three years has been jailed for 21 days.

Libusa Rigoova, aged 46 and formerly of Makkah Close in Newton Heath, was convicted of fraudulently claiming £2,310 of housing benefit from Manchester City Council in 2009, pleaded guilty to failing to surrender to bail during a hearing at Manchester Magistrates' Court on Tuesday 4 September 2012.

She was sentenced to seven days for the benefit fraud offence and 21 days for the bail offence, to run concurrently.

Manchester City Council originally brought her case to court in August 2009 after a National Fraud Initiative data-matching exercise – designed to detect fraudulent payments. The exercise discovered she had continued claiming of benefits from the council for nearly six months after moving to Halifax.

When she failed to turn up to the 2009 hearing, she was found guilty in her absence and a warrant issued for her arrest. She was arrested in Birmingham on Sunday 2 September 2012 and the case was transferred to Manchester, where council legal officers were able to successfully bring the prosecution to a conclusion.

District Judge Khalid Qureshi said in the circumstances he had no option other than to impose an immediate custodial sentence.

Cllr Jeff Smith, Manchester City Council's executive member for finance and human resources said: "Rigoova thought she could get away with stealing from Manchester council tax payers by fraudulently claiming benefits, and that if she left the city we would simply go away.

"This prosecution proves she was wrong and should serve as a warning to other potential fraudsters that our team of investigators and legal staff do not give up."

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