A fraudster jailed after claiming she was so poor she had to accept free food and drink from a nearby mosque when she was in fact the owner of a successful and lucrative business has been told to pay back nearly £210,000 ($250,000).
Carina Reid was jailed for three years last May at Isleworth Crown Court after claiming more than £50,000 ($60,000) in housing and council tax.
The 34-year-old former beautician told Chelsea and Kensington Council she had no savings, had taken no holidays between 2009 and 2014, and was forced to accept free food at a mosque.
In reality, Reid had 19 different bank accounts with £180,000 ($215,000) in total and lived in a flat on King’s Road in Chelsea, central London.
The court heard how self-employed Reid first claimed benefits from Kensington and Chelsea Council in 2009, stating she earned a very low income from her beauty business Enhance.
But an investigation found her Facebook profile showed her taking holidays to various countries, sipping champagne in Harrods, and dining at top London establishments including Scotts, the Dorchester Hotel, and the Berkeley Hotel.
A profile of Reid on the Enhance website said she was a ‘senior medical aesthetician’ who had ‘worked with a wide range of clientele, from VIP film stars, TV and radio presenters as well as on magazine shoots and celebrity events.’
Her King’s Road flat was purchased with a deposit of £20,000 ($24,000), and she got a mortgage based on her true tax returns which showed that Enhance was a successful business.
She had also sent £116,000 ($138,000) abroad in 2013-2014 to acquire property in Dubai, and her LinkedIn profile indicated her desire to expand her business to Dubai and Los Angeles.
Reid received £51,110.37 in benefits from the council, including £48,395.99 in housing benefits, £2,173.40 council tax benefits, and £540.98 council tax reduction.
Reid told the court that she was not living a lavish lifestyle despite what her social media posts may have suggested, and claimed that some of the trips were paid for by boyfriends or friends and that others were business training trips.
Reid also claimed that she had accurately represented her tax records.
During the sentencing, Judge Marks Moore called Reid’s fraud “sophisticated” and “premeditated” and was created to fund her lavish lifestyle.
He stated that it was “not a passive fraud” and that there was a “positive demonstration to deceive” every time she filed a claim form.
Council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown said of the case: “Money that was intended for those in greatest need was instead dishonestly used by Carina Reid to fund a lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense. I am very pleased that following our investigation, which uncovered her real circumstances, the court has handed down this custodial sentence.”
Eight of the nine dishonesty charges related to Reid’s failure to declare savings in 19 separate bank accounts. Reid also faced a charge of making a false representation to the council after a tenancy agreement on the King’s Road property named her as a tenant, when in fact she was the owner.
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