By Jessica Labhart | Express and Star |
A professional couple who lied about being homeless to get a council house while living a lavish lifestyle have been exposed on TV. Mkhululi Mpofu (originally a journalist in Zimbabwe) and his wife Vanessa featured on BBC One’s Council House Crackdown programme on Monday.
The fraudsters lied about their circumstances to secure a property in the sought-after area of Fordhouses in Wolverhampton.
According to the programme, the couple had told housing officers they were homeless, and sleeping on friend’s sofas with their young family.
But they were leading a lavish lifestyle, posting photographs on social media that showed them sipping Champagne abroad and driving expensive cars.
They had been put on a high-priority list – usually reserved for applicants in the most desperate need of help – after saying they had no bedroom of their own.
They provided bank statements and wage slips to Wolverhampton Homes, which suggested there was ‘nothing untoward’ going on, and beat more than 230 other applicants to get the two-bedroom property.
However, 18 months later, investigations by officers at Wolverhampton Homes and the city council found that the couple, who were both working at the time, already had a social housing tenancy in Walsall.
During the investigation, the couple’s documents were found to be false, and they had knowingly not included their Walsall address on their list of previous addresses.
Speaking on the programme, Elaine Morgan, of the fraud investigation team at Wolverhampton Homes, said: “It is sickening, it just reinforces what we always say, ‘there is no such thing as a typical fraudster’.
“A lot of our applicants are very desperate for a home, and the situation with housing in the UK at the moment means it’s not very easy for people to get onto the property ladder anymore. The demand for social housing is very great.”
Louise Humphries who works in the same team, added: “We deal with so many people who are desperate for housing and have no other means of getting housing either by buying or renting privately because it’s just not affordable for them.”
Demand for housing in the West Midlands is at an all-time high, and fraudulent tenancy claims can have a devastating effect.
Elaine added: “Social housing is designed for people in need, it’s not just something that should be available for people to come along and say ‘I want that house, I fancy living there’.
“It should be for the people that genuinely need it. Looking at their photos makes me feel a great sense of satisfaction knowing that we won’t tolerate anyone committing housing fraud and will take action against them.”
The couple, who lived at Minehead Road, Fordhouses, pleaded guilty to tenancy fraud at Wolverhampton Magistrates’ Court on November 12, 2013.
Mr Mpofu, a former journalist in his native Zimbabwe, was sentenced to a 12- month community order and ordered to do 120 hours unpaid work.
His wife, who worked for the NHS, was given a three-month community order. Both were ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £60 and costs of £320. They were then evicted.
Darren Baggs, assistant director of housing at Wolverhampton Homes said: “Tenancy fraud is illegal; it’s not fair on others and is something that we take very seriously.”