A man has been jailed for 23 months, suspended for two years after he illegally sublet numerous properties set aside to support people who have been homeless, or in genuine need of housing.
Bernard Nii Allotey Hoffman, 55, of Sandywell Street, Manchester, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday February 17, after pleading guilty to a string of fraud charges.
It was proved that between 2003 and 2018 he illegally obtained and rented out properties, costing the Council in excess of £170,000.
This money was spent finding alternative accommodation for homeless families as the Council was prevented from renting out the homes Hoffman was illegally subletting.
This case first came to the attention of Manchester City Council on January 22, 2018, when Greater Manchester Police attended a disturbance at a property in Hartington Street, between Hoffman and an individual he had been letting the property to.
This raised the suspicions of Jigsaw Homes Group whose Neighbourhood Safety Team investigated, obtaining statements from the sub-tenants. This evidence was then passed to the Council’s Counter Fraud team for a full investigation.
It became clear that Hoffman had been illegally subletting this property for years, profiting off that enterprise.
Records showed that Hoffman took up the tenancy of Hartington Street on June 23, 2003, subject to a tenancy agreement that prevented the property from being sublet.
He also took the tenancy of a property managed by Mosscare St. Vincents Housing Trust in Barleycroft Street on June 24, 2003. However, he vacated this property to illegally sublet it to his partner, as well as other individuals.
Hoffman also held tenancies at Trowtree Avenue in 2001, Sandywell Street in 2010, and Rostron Avenue in 2011.
Over the course of the Council’s investigation, it was found that Hoffman used his brother’s identity to fraudulently apply to live at the properties in Trowtree Avenue and Rostron Avenue.
During times throughout this period of criminality Hoffman was in possession of three tenancies at once.
Throughout this period the loss to the Council in rent was £173,385.73.
Sentencing, Her Honour Judge Elizabeth Nicholls ordered Hoffman to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work in addition to his suspended sentence.
He was also ordered to pay an unlawful profit order of £8,813.04 and a victim surcharge.
Councillor Suzanne Richards, Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration, said: “Though the dedication of our Counter Fraud Team and our legal representatives this fraudster is finally facing the consequences of their actions. This was an insidious crime, effectively taking houses away from the people who need them most.
“Affordable housing in Manchester is in high demand which is why every effort is taken to make sure the right person is found the right home. By chopping and changing tenancies and even going so far as to impersonate someone else, Hoffman has only thought to exploit the system, at the expense of more deserving people.
“As a Council our priority is to make sure that Manchester is a place where everyone has access to a safe, secure and affordable home. We will not allow fraudsters to jeopardise this goal.”
Kate Sullivan, Neighbourhood Safety Manager at Jigsaw Homes added: “We have worked closely with the Counter Fraud Team at Manchester City Council and it is testament to the hard work of everyone involved to secure this conviction. We take a zero-tolerance approach to tenancy fraud and we are pleased that this property is now occupied by someone in genuine housing need.”
Notes to Editors
1 count – Obtaining property by deception – Theft Act 1968.
5 counts – Fraud by failing to disclose information s1(1) and 3, and fraud by false representation s1(1) – Fraud Act 2006
2 counts – unlawfully subletting a dwelling house – Prevention of Social Housing Act 2013.