Saturday, February 19, 2011

Muslim teacher who amassed £1.7m property portfolio using fraudulent mortgage claims while receiving benefits is jailed

Syed Shah, 45, paid just £24.60 in income tax over a five year period and also claimed benefits despite developing his impressive array of properties, costing the lenders he duped around £450,000.

The dad-of-six from Bradford created a series of bogus identities and even invented a job for himself - saying he worked at a school which was in fact derelict - to get financial support.

Jonathan Sharp, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court on Thursday that Shah had benefited from his underhand plan to the tune of £391,000.

Mr Sharp said Shah had also gone to some length to establish false employers references and had backed up his various aliases with false identification documents, including passports, with bank accounts opened in the appropriate names.

He also repeatedly quoted that he worked for the Muslim Educational Centre at Boundary Farm in Leeds, but the Crown argued that this was in fact a facade for Shah's dishonesty because it was derelict.

The court heard that in 2002 Shah claimed he was earning in excess of £34,800 to get a mortgage on a house in Leeds, the fourth property in his portfolio. He sold it in 2005 with a net profit of £73,573.

The following year, he bought a former council-owned house in Leeds, with a right-to-buy discount in his own name after again claiming he had a £35,000 salary.

Eighteen months later he sold that property to himself under a false name at an inflated price and claimed the man earned £100,000 at the centre.

When the original loan was repaid, Shah pocketed £159,600 in cash.

The fraudster then raised a loan for an extension to a property before remortgaging the house using another false identity, failing to making payments on that loan and allowing it to be repossessed, only to buy it back in yet another name at the much reduced price.

Mr Sharp said he used similar identities to get loans on another property in Leeds, which was also remortgaged and repossessed.

Jailing Shah for five years and eight months, Recorder of Leeds Judge Peter Collier QC, said: 'You persisted in a course of conduct over several years.

'It involved considerable planning in advance when you created bogus identities investing these people with bank accounts in which you put money sometimes many months in advance of when you were going to use those identities.'

'It was calculated to cause significant loss to financial institutions who you had persuaded to loan you monies by gross deceptions and the creation of bogus identities.

'I accept some were real people but they were not in this country, they were far away in Pakistan.'

Shah's accomplice, financial adviser Mahboob Abbas, 53, admitted one charge of fraud and was given 40 weeks in prison suspended for 12 months, with 192 hours of unpaid work.

Ricky Holland, for Shah, said he continued to do Islamic teaching when the genuine centre could not be kept up and felt shame at the loss of his good name. The money he received was used on other properties.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesperson said: 'The police have spent over two years investigating this matter. Mr Shah has persistently and systematically defrauded financial institutions over an eight-year period.

'It's thanks to a dedicated team whose hard work has resulted in the conviction of both defendants and I hope this sends out a message to persons who see fit to conduct themselves in a criminal and fraudulent manner.

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