Roma ‘activist’ sentenced for fraud offence

Had previously worked as Roma education advisor 9th November 2010: A Roma community ‘activist’ who helped ensnare members of the Romanian Roma community, struggling to apply for UK benefits, into an elaborate scam aimed at siphoning off over £10 million from the system has been sentenced to two years three months imprisonment at Southwark Crown Court today, Monday 8 November.
According to Metropolitan Police bulletin dated November 8, Lavinia Olmazu, 31, of Newlands Road, Woodford Green, who had earlier pleaded guilty on Monday 26 July to one count of conspiracy to supply articles for use in fraud between November 2007 and August 2009, had previously worked as a Roma education advisor and outreach worker to two London councils at different times.

Olmazu gained a public profile as a vocal advocate for Roma rights who attended various public protests – and used a company she set up called Roma Concern as one of the fronts for the fraud for which she has now been imprisoned.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police Service’s (MPS) Operation Golf unit uncovered the benefits scam as part of their ongoing joint investigation with Romanian Police into criminal activities in the UK connected to a major organised criminal network suspected of trafficking poor Roma families into the UK with the intention of exploiting them.

Superintendent Bernie Gravett, of Operation Golf, said: "Lavinia Olmazu aided and abetted members of an organised criminal network which in this case exploited these families to commit crime in the UK. This complex scam would have defrauded the UK authorities of more than £10 million had the plan fully succeeded.

"This was a long and painstaking case involving over 450 statements being obtained, a significant amount of surveillance and search warrants. As a result of the hard work of the Operation Golf staff, particularly Detective Constable Melanie Groves and Detective Sergeant Phil Bayfield (retired); these criminals have been brought to justice."

Detective Constable Melanie Groves said: "This is a clear case of Roma families who wished to improve their lives but were prevented from doing so by being exploited by their own people.

"Olmazu is an educated Roma lady who abused her position of trust and purported to be trying to help Roma people integrate into this country, yet actually assisted them to obtain benefits through false pretences. This undermines the work of those who are genuinely concerned with the difficult issues Roma people face throughout Europe."

Seven associates of Olmazu involved in aspects of the scam were previously sentenced to a total of more than nine years on Friday 16 July.

Olmazu’s partner, unemployed Alin Enachi, 30, also of Newlands Road, Woodford Green, was jailed for two years, eight months after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to supply articles for use in fraud between November 2007 and August 2009. He was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, which will remain on file.

Cristian Dumitru, 29, of Junction Road, London N17, was jailed for two years six months after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to supply articles for use in fraud between November 2007 and August 2009.

Dumitru also pleaded guilty to two further counts of fraud, and received two fourteen month prison sentences for these, to run concurrent with his sentence of two years, six months. He was also charged with one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, which will remain on file.

The four other members of the gang sentenced alongside Enachi and Cristian Dumitru on Friday 16 July were: Stelian Dumitru, 26, and his partner Nicoleta Vasile, 25, both of Northumberland Park, London, N17, who were given 12 months imprisonment each after pleading guilty to two counts of fraud.

Paula Mihai, 25 and partner of Cristian Dumitru’s – also of Junction Road, London N17, got 12 months imprisonment for two counts of fraud.

Daniel Dumitru, 20, of Northumberland Park, London N17, got eight months in prison and Ioan Dumitru, 22, of Walpole Road, London N17, four months imprisonment, both for pleading guilty to two counts of fraud each.

Here in the UK, Cristian Dumitru enlisted the help of partners Enachi and Lavinia Olmazu for the scam by referring families to the pair. Enachi and Olmazu created fake companies and issued bogus work references and invoices to deceive Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) staff.

These documents allowed more than 350 Romanian individuals to gain National Insurance numbers by indicating that they would become self employed and contribute to the UK tax system. Once the NI numbers were received, families would be instructed to register for a variety of benefits including working tax credit, child benefit, child tax credit, and housing benefit.

These NI numbers also gave the bearers access to NHS cover they were not entitled to. 172 of the 368 Roma nationals who fraudulently obtained NI numbers between March 2008 and July 2009 were successful in illegally claiming benefits.

The surveillance showed Enachi meeting groups of Romanians outside Tooting Job Centre in South London and handing out false documents – then he accompanied claimants into interviews acting as their interpreter. Enachi controlled the false claims throughout, and together with Cristian Dumitru and Olmazu assisted other members of the gang to then profit from the illegally obtained benefits.

Over the period of the conspiracy Cristian Dumitru, who had never had a legitimate job in the UK, put £121,000 through his bank account, £79,000 of which he could not account for. He was sending money back to other gang members in Romania.

On uncovering the criminal enterprise Operation Golf worked together with DWP and HMRC to gather evidence and to close down illegal claims. More than 170 false claims amounting to £2.9 million that were processed through the system were tracked back to the gang.

Operation Golf is intending to seek deportation orders on those individuals sentenced to 12 months or more when their terms come to an end.

At the end of the trial the Judge commended DC Groves for her painstaking detailed investigation into the systematic and large scale attack on the benefits system.

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