Bromley Council has successfully prosecuted a former employee for housing benefit fraud after discovering the woman had secured her job and financial support from the council under a false identity.
Stephanie Okpaire, 43, was employed by Bromley Council under the name of Stephanie Dole between April 2005 and February this year when a routine renewal check uncovered the deception.
Okpaire had successfully applied for a job with the council using a French national identity card and UK driving license belonging to a Stephanie Dole of Paris. A photograph provided by the French Consulate showed the real Stephanie Dole was not the woman employed by Bromley Council.
Further checks revealed Okpaire had fraudulently claimed housing benefit during various periods between February 2000 and August 2006. Okpaire pleaded guilty to four counts of benefit fraud totaling £11,432 at Croydon Crown Court on 15 July this year. She also pleaded guilty to theft by deception, obtaining pecuniary advantage when employed by Bromley Council using a false identity and being paid £178,686.
Sentencing Okpaire to 15 months imprisonment, Judge Tanzer said Okpaire was a serial offender deserving punishment for what she had done.
Councillor Neil Reddin, chair of Bromley’s Audit Committee said: 'We welcome the custodial sentence in this case. It not only reflects the seriousness of the fraud but also that it was disappointingly perpetrated by a former member of staff. Bromley Council does not tolerate any fraud whether committed by members of the public or employees. This person has rightly been punished for stealing public funds meant for the needy of this borough.'
The case brings the total of Bromley benefit claimants prosecuted to 404 since Bromley Council and the Royal Borough of Greenwich started working in partnership to track, trace and prosecute benefit fraudsters.