Czech gang sentenced over £1m benefit scam

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Media captionThe gang withdrew about £30,000 a month, spending money in casinos and buying luxury cars

The ringleader of a family gang which claimed more than £1m in an elaborate "benefit tourism" scam has been jailed.

Julius Ziga, 34, from Nottingham, arranged for people from EU states to come to the UK on a promise of a job.

Working with his former partner Magdalena Ferkova, they would help them get national insurance numbers, open a bank account and then claim benefits.

A Czech national, Ziga was jailed for four years at Nottingham Crown Court after pleading guilty earlier.

'Sophisticated' operation

The court was told Magdalena Ferkova had fled the country and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.

Also convicted were Ferkova's sister Iveta, 33, of Cardinal Close, St Ann's, and her aunt and uncle Alena Lackova and Jan Lacko, both aged 39, of Edale Road in Nottingham.

Iveta Ferkova was given a five-year prison sentence. Lacko was jailed for three years while his wife Lackova was given a two-year sentence, suspended for two years.

Image caption Alena Lackova and Jan Lacko were also in on the scam

All five were found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation.

The court heard the Nottingham-based family, who are originally from the Czech Republic, flew or drove people into the UK and helped them claim tax benefits.

After applications for tax credits were made the claimants were then sent back to their home countries while the money was paid into bank accounts controlled by the gang.

Nottingham Crown Court heard that during raids in 2010, HMRC investigators and Nottinghamshire Police found 124 bank accounts set up to receive cash from 77 false tax credit claims.

They found the gang was withdrawing about £33,000 a month and spent some of the money in casinos in Nottingham, Leicester, Bradford and Newcastle.

They also bought luxury cars including a Mercedes and a BMW 5 Series.

Gary Lampon, from HMRC, said the gang had been very determined.

"Whenever they [the gang] were questioned or challenged, they would drive people back over here to answer questions and fool the HMRC into believing they were legitimate claimants.

"It was very sophisticated, very ruthless and very determined."

Judge James Sampson added: "This was fraudulent from the outset. It was well organised and the sums obtained were considerable."

He also ordered that Ziga, Iveta Ferkova and Lacko serve half of their prison sentences before being deported.

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