Twelve Zimbabweans and their five accomplices have been arrested in the United Kingdom on allegations of hatching a plot to pocket £1 million through a sham maternity allowance racket. The Zimbabweans were identified as Clemence Marijeni (44) of Weston Road, Bilston, Liberty Masunda (44) of Mapleton Road, Hall Green, Tiwone Dokowe (36) of Mansion Crescent, Smethwick; Patient Kanjira (19) of Mansion Crescent, Smethwick; Tapiwa Madziwa (37) of Rightwell East, Peterborough; Tinashe Sagomba, (37) of Dereham Road, Thetford; Poula Chikuhwa (26) of Weston Drive, Bilston and Casper Mawoko (35) Fullerton Close, Pendeford.
The others are Laura Baza (29) Ledbury Walk, Cottesmore, Oakham; Faith Tagarira (20), Chapel Street, Bilston; Todd Tagarira (39), Chapel Street, Bilston and Kudakwashe Mhembere (36), Chapel Street, Bilston. According to media reports, the gang made at least 165 fake applications for the benefit pay out in four years, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told on Saturday.
All denied conspiring together with Henry Baza to defraud the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by applying for and, or, receiving maternity allowance payment to which they were not entitled between May 4, 2011 and August 28, 2015.
Around £450 000 was paid into the bank accounts controlled or used by people involved in the racket, said Mr Harpreet Sandhu, prosecuting.
Other attempts made by them were identified as frauds by Department of Work and Pension (DWP) officials and not paid, it was said.
If all the applications had been successful, the gang would have made "something approaching £1 million," concluded Mr Sandhu, who claimed there was a "web of connectivity" between the people in the dock - nine of whom had addresses in the Black Country - and a man called Henry Baza, who was accused of "orchestrating" the making of bogus claims while running a string of aliases and bank accounts.