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Fake tenancies at heart of Bulgarian's gang's £53m scam


Five fraudsters who stole £53.9 million in a huge benefits scam used false tenancy agreements to help them make claims.

Department for Work and Pensions investigators, working with the Crown Prosecution Service, caught the group after a lengthy investigation - England and Wales’s largest benefit fraud case. Investigators gathered extensive evidence of false tenancy agreements and shell companies created to show false employment claims, including counterfeit payslips and GP notes.

The defendants - Galina Nikolova, 38; Stoyan Stoyanov, 27; Tsvetka Todorova, 52; Gyunesh Ali, 33; and Patritsia Paneva, 26 - are all Bulgarian.

Investigators found ‘claim packs’ at their houses, which were created for others to make false claims and included false documents such as bank statements, fake photographic identification, and forged information on dependants.

The five admitted numerous charges at Wood Green Crown Court and will be sentenced at a later date, while the CPS Proceeds of Crime Division is to pursue confiscation proceedings against them.


Nishma Parekh (pictured), head of referencing at Goodlord, says the case is a reminder why agents and landlords need technology solutions to ensure they can beat the fraudsters.

The firm’s analysis of more than 600,000 tenancy applications found that the number of fraudulent applications from tenants looking to secure a new rental property rose by 140% last year.

“Thanks to the increased sophistication of Photoshop and forgery tools, criminals looking to falsify tenancy documents have a wide range of routes they can explore,” Parekh tells LandlordZONE. “This might include doctoring bank statements, submitting false IDs, or sharing references from fake companies.

“Luckily, however, the tools at the disposal of referencing teams are now extremely effective at spotting nefarious applications. Through Open Banking, AI-powered ID systems, and teams trained to spot document inconsistencies, most fake tenancy submissions are spotted early and blocked. If these systems aren’t in place, dodgy applications can slip through the net.”

Main picture: From top left, clockwise: Stoyan Stoyanov, Patritsia Paneva, Tsvetka Todorova, Gyunesh Ali and Galina Nikolova. Pic credit: CPS.


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