A CONVICTED benefits cheat who claimed thousands of pounds from the state despite running a successful business has fled Scotland owing £36,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
Toyah Lanipekun left for Nigeria after paying just over £15,000 towards a £52,000 confiscation order, Livingston Sheriff Court heard yesterday.
The 37-year-old – who lived in a £300,000, five-bedroom home in Livingston – defrauded thousands of pounds from the taxpayer.
She told the authorities she was a hard-up single mother who needed help to eke out her meagre income and support her children.
In fact, she was a successful businesswoman living in a luxury house with husband Stephen, who ran an IT consultancy and worked for Edinburgh University.
She paid herself around £2000 a month out of her hairdressing company and from a rental property while she was cheating the state.
After pleading guilty in 2010 to falsely claiming £18,000 from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), she was forced to sell her home and close the successful hairdressing company called Koko’s Indulgence she had run for five years.
Lanipekun, originally from Nigeria, lived in the upmarket Murieston area of Livingston, West Lothian.
She failed to notify officials at the DWP that her husband was living with her and they were running a business from their home.
Lanipekun, a first offender, was sentenced to 160 hours of community service, ordered to repay the money she falsely claimed and told to pay thousands of pounds more to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs after investigators discovered huge chunks of her income could not be explained.
Initially, HMRC demanded £390,000 under the Proceeds of Crime Act but, after discussions with forensic accountants, Lanipekun’s lawyers negotiated this down to £52,194.
At a hearing yesterday, prosecutor Brent Bissett told the court that there was no prospect of the Crown now obtaining any more cash from Lanipekun because she had left the UK and it was not known whether she would return or not.
The court was told that the amount of money she had received from the sale of her property was not enough to meet the amount due under the confiscation order.
Sheriff Douglas Kinloch ruled the confiscation order should be amended to reflect the Crown had only been able to reclaim £15,500 of the amount due.