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Fraudster journalist who built mansion in Zimbabwe using British cash from £450,000 maternity benefit and sham marriage scams

By Richard Spillet | Daily Mail |

The head of a gang who conned £450,000 in maternity payments before building himself a mansion in his native Zimbabwe has been jailed.

Clemence Marijeni and his wife Poula Chikuhwa were at the centre of a maternity payments scam which netted £450,000 in taxpayers' cash over more than four yearsClemence Marijeni, 44, was at the centre of a 12-person fraud ring who claimed taxpayers’ cash meant for mothers of young babies. 

They claimed £720,000 in maternity allowance payments over more than four years – but got their hands on less than half a million pounds worth after DWP officials became suspicious.

Marijeni was previously jailed over his part in a sham marriage con that saw him and his gang charge £3,500 to set up European and non-Europeans with forged passports, wage slips and bills so they could marry.

Czech and Slovakian people living in the UK were paid to wed migrants from outside the EU. 

The couple were using the cash to build this sprawling mansion and farm in Zimbabwe
The couple were using the cash to build this sprawling mansion and farm in Zimbabwe

Marijeni and his wife Poula Chikuhwa were building a sprawling mansion in Zimbabwe on the proceeds of the latest scam, The Wolverhampton Express and Star reported. 

Marijeni, who was given a ten-year jail term for the previous con, was handed a seven-year sentence for the maternity fraud today. His wife Chikuhwa was jailed for three years.

Investigators uncovered the plans during the second of two investigations into Marijeni
Investigators uncovered the plans during the second of two investigations into Marijeni

Ten others were jailed for their parts in the fraud; Liberty Masunda, 43, Tinashe Sagomba, 38, Toad Tagarira, 50, Kudakwashe Mhembere, 37, Faith Mavis Tagarira, 41, Tiwone Dowoke, 38, Walasungu Ngwira, 39, Patience Kanjira, 19, Casper Mawoko, 36, Tapiwa Madziwa, 37. 

Most of the group, including Marijeni, were from the West Midlands. Others were based in Peterborough and Norwich.

Pictures of the building were released by the Department for Work and Pensions today
Pictures of the building were released by the Department for Work and Pensions today

Following their sentencing today, a DWP spokesman said: ‘People who steal identities or use fake ones in order to receive benefits they don’t deserve are cheating money out of hardworking taxpayers and stealing funds, which should be used to help those who really need them.

‘In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, these benefit thieves must pay back all the money they falsely obtained and face a criminal record for life.’ 

Prosecutor Gurminder Sanghera said: ‘These defendants set up an expert operation to create false documents and falsely stamp them to ensure they were accepted by the DWP.

‘As a result of their actions, there has been a loss to the taxpayer of £450,000 in false payments.

Walasungu Ngwira got six years for her part in the fraud. Kudakwashe Mhembere got two and half years‘Many of the defendants denied knowing about the fraud, or that their bank accounts were used. Evidence put forward by the CPS showed they each played an integral part of the scheme and ultimately the jury has found them guilty.’

Masunda was sentenced to three years in prison, Sagomba to five years and Tagarira to four.

Casper Mawoko got four years and Tinashe Sagomba to five years for conspiracy to defraudDokowe, Madziwa and Ngwira were each sentenced to six years in prison. Mawoko got four years.

Mhembere was jailed for two and a half years and Tagarira to 22 months in prison, suspended for two years.

Kanjira was sentenced to 14 months in prison, suspended for two years.

Each denied conspiracy to defraud but were convicted by a jury.