THURROCK Council’s Fraud Service has uncovered and brought to justice a former housing officer after it was found she was helping people she knew unfairly access council housing.
Rachel Thomas, 31, of Gumley Close in Grays, pleaded guilty to manipulating internal records to help three people gain access to properties at Chelmer Housing.
The three who benefitted – Sara Kiel, Lisa Nelson and Billy Nelson – also pleaded guilty to fraud offences in relation to the housing applications they submitted to the Council.
Rachael Thomas, Sara Kiel, Lisa Nelson pleaded guilty to all offences at the earliest opportunity at the Plea, Trial and Preparation hearing (PTPH) in October last year, whilst Billy Nelson plead to one count at the same hearing and another the other count at a later hearing in December.
The above individuals benefited from Thomas’ actions and would not have qualified for Thurrock Council housing as they had no local connection to the borough and were in rent arrears at their previous Barking and Dagenham council properties. The arrears resulted in Lisa and Billy Nelson being evicted and Sara Kiel was served a notice to quit – meaning they were therefore deemed ‘intentionally homeless’.
The Fraud team was alerted to Thomas’ actions in August 2016, a month later she resigned her post ahead of a planned disciplinary hearing and a thorough investigation took place.
Cllr Shane Hebb, Portfolio Holder responsible for Fraud investigations said: “It is sad to hear that an employee has misused their role as a public servant – thankfully a rare thing.
“Our Fraud team was tenacious on receipt of the whistleblowing evidence and pursued the matter vigorously.”
“Internal audit processes uncovered the crime quickly, before disciplinary action was taken, Thomas resigned, but we continued with our criminal charges and investigations.”
Leader of the Council and Portfolio Holder for Housing, Cllr Rob Gledhill said: “This isn’t just a technical crime these people tried to steal homes from families that truly deserved them.
“By falsely taking these properties they denied hope of a suitable property to three families potentially costing them money as well.
“The fact that our own fraud team were able to bring this to end shows we take stealing from the public purse or an officer misusing their position seriously and will continue to do so.”