Four members of a five-strong family gang, who brought people into the UK to act as “benefit tourists” illegally claiming £1.2 million in tax credits and Child Benefit, have been sentenced today after an investigation led by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). A fifth gang member, Magdalena Ferkova, who has gone on the run will be sentenced on her capture.
The Nottingham-based gang who are from the Czech Republic, arranged for often vulnerable foreign nationals from Slovakia and the Czech Republic to be brought to the city to make false benefit claims. The claimants were temporarily housed in Nottingham and then “helped” to get a National Insurance number and open a bank account. After applications for tax credits and Child Benefit were made the gang sent the claimants home.
During raids in April 2010, HMRC investigators and Nottinghamshire Police identified 124 bank accounts set up to receive cash from 77 false tax credits claims, totalling around £750,000. As a result of the HMRC investigation, the gang was stopped from stealing a further £500,000.
Gary Lampon, Assistant Director, Criminal Investigation, HMRC, said:
“This gang was extremely well organised and ruthless in their ambition to steal vast amounts of public money at the expense of the British taxpayer. They exploited the many people they lured to the UK from abroad with the promise of legal employment, but then manipulated and discarded them.
“An arrest warrant has been issued for Magdalena Ferkova who absconded during the trial. We would appeal for anyone with information regarding her whereabouts to call the Customs Hotline 0800 59 5000.”
We have worked closely with colleagues from Nottinghamshire Police and the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure justice is served.”
The gang was led by Julius Ziga and his partner Magdalena Ferkova. They conned their way into withdrawing a steady supply of cash from the bank accounts set up by the bogus claimants – around £33,000 a month between January 2008 and April 2010. Some of the money was used in gambling at casinos in Nottingham, Leicester, Bradford, Newcastle and Manchester. They also bought luxury cars, including a Mercedes and BMW 5 series.
His Honour Judge Sampson, commented on sentencing the defendants “You have been significantly greedy and dishonest, exploiting the tax credit system and keeping most of the money for yourselves”.
Confiscation proceedings to reclaim the crime proceeds are underway.
Notes for editors
1. Photographs of the defendants are available on request or from HMRC’s Flickr site www.flickr.com/hmrcgovuk
2. Details of those sentenced today, 4 November 2013, at Nottingham Crown Court:
· Julius Ziga (DOB 15.08.79) a dual Czech Republic and Slovakian national, lately of Gateshead and formerly of Cromer Road, St Anns, and Colborn Street, Nottingham, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to four years in prison. He will be deported at the end of his jail term.
- Iveta Ferkova (DOB 16.08.81) a Czech Republic national of Cardinal Close, St Anns, Nottingham, was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. She will be deported at the end of his jail term. Iveta Ferkova is the sister of Magdalena Ferkova and niece of Alena Lackova.
· Jan Lacko (DOB 23.09.74) a Czech Republic national of Edale Road, Nottingham, was found guilty and sentenced to three years in prison. He will be deported at the end of his jail term Lacko is the husband of Alena Lackova.
· Alena Lackova (DOB 03.03.74) a Czech Republic national of Edale Road, Nottingham, was found guilty and sentenced to two years in prison, suspended for two years.
Lackova is the wife of Jan Lacko and aunt of Magdalena Ferkova and Iveta Ferkova.
· Magdalena Ferkova (DOB 23.06.80) a Czech Republic national of Colborn Street, Nottingham, was found guilty and will be sentenced on her capture.
Magdalena Ferkova was the partner of Julius Ziga and niece of Alena Lackova.
They were charged with Conspiracy to Commit Fraud by false representation under the Criminal Law Act 1977.
3. Follow HMRC on Twitter @HMRCgovuk
Issued by HM Revenue & Customs Press Office
HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) is the UK’s tax authority.
HMRC is responsible for making sure that the money is available to fund the UK’s public services and for helping families and individuals with targeted financial support.