A SCOTTISH couple who swindled nearly £1 million in benefits from the public purse have been named and shamed by the government in a fresh crackdown of welfare fraud.
Anthony and Janet Kearney, from Glasgow, have been outed by officials after they stole £943,365 by fraudulently claiming benefits and using stolen identities.
The pair feature in a rogues’ gallery of the top ten benefits cheats named by the Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith in an unprecedented move.
The government has taken the step in an attempt to slash the millions of pounds lost in fraudulent claims.
Critics claim the extreme measure of publicly identifying welfare cheats could be unfair as it pillories individuals, but ministers have said they will use “all the powers of the law” to claw back taxpayers’ money.
Top of the list is Sly Malik, 49, from Barking, East London, who claimed more than £1 million in Jobseeker’s Allowance and housing benefit despite running a property empire and a string of companies. He hid more than £200,000 in 70 bank accounts was told to pay the money back after he was found guilty of 12 charges of benefit fraud.
Second on the list were the Kearneys, who were ordered to pay back nearly a million pounds under the Proceeds of Crime Act after their scam was uncovered. Anthony Kearney, 48, fraudulently claimed £930,362 and his 45-year-old partner, who also uses the name Donna McCafferty, was told to return £13,003.
The couple absconded to Spain after being charged with fraud, but they were tracked down in the Costa Blanca town of Benissa after featuring in a Crimestoppers appeal.
At Glasgow Sheriff Court in January 2010, Anthony Kearney was jailed for two years and Janet Kearney was ordered to complete 250 hours of community service. Both had claimed housing benefit when they had more than £330,000 in offshore accounts. They also claimed more than £23,000 in income support.
Third in the gallery was African-born Gladys Popoola, 48, from London, who swiped £304,079 after she claimed benefits using false identities. She was sentenced to two years in prison after it emerged she owned land and property in Kenya and had 19 bank accounts.
Others shamed claimed income support while working, used false identities and lied about their personal circumstances.
Officials have taken a more proactive approach over the past year, and in 2012-13 the department’s specialist financial investigation unit obtained 271 confiscation orders worth £8.9 million – a 50 per cent increase by value on the previous year.
Welfare minister Lord Freud said: “These cases should serve as a warning to the cynical minority who see benefits as a way of unfairly lining their pockets at the taxpayer’s expense.”
A government spokesman said: “We make no apologies for this list.”