Hula dance photo snares benefits cheat

Abdul Russell Esfandmozd
Abdul Russell Esfandmozd
Canoe Lake

Picture: Shaun Roster

Robbers target man on a bike at Canoe Lake

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FOR a man who said he was confined to a wheelchair, Abdul Esfandmozd showed surprising agility in a holiday hula dance.

Now the picture of his performance has helped get him jailed for a major benefits fraud.

FOR 10 years Abdul Esfandmozd lived a lie, claiming to need a wheelchair and receiving nearly £100,000 in benefits.

But today the 51-year-old is starting a four-year jail term, having been exposed as a cheat and described by a judge as one of the most dishonest and manipulative men ever to go before Portsmouth Crown Court.

To the outside world Esfandmozd lived a quiet life from his flat in Portsmouth, relying on his electric wheelchair to get around.

But away from the city he enjoyed regular holidays to America, Cyprus and Malta, all at the taxpayers’ expense.

Photographs found when police raided his home included him lifting a woman up on a trip abroad, diving into a pool and dancing.

Jailing him, Judge Sarah Munro QC said: ‘Between 2000 and 2010 you consistently and constantly lied to Portsmouth City Council in order to extract benefits to which you are not and have never been entitled.

‘You are in my view one of the most dishonest and manipulative individuals ever to have come before this court.

‘When it suits you, you can turn on the charm or turn on the tears. If that doesn’t work you resort to threats and violence.

‘You created a false persona, setting yourself up as a wheelchair user with the specific purpose of defrauding the council.’

Esfandmozd claimed £98,730 in disability payments which were meant to go on carers.

He was required to keep a log of the names of his carers but when police found it he had listed them as the former England goalkeeper P. Shilton, athlete D. Thompson and even a Mr D. Duck.

Despite the overwhelming evidence Esfandmozd, of Somers Road, Somers Town, insisted he was innocent.

He was found guilty of two counts of fraud, two of obtaining money by deception and three of entering into a money laundering arrangement after a seven-day trial.

On hearing the verdicts he shouted at the jury: ‘I am innocent, I am like Jesus on the cross.’

Prosector Matthew Lawson said: ‘The benefits were means tested and not payable to anyone with assets of over £16,000.

‘In order to conceal his assets from the council and ensure that his benefits continued to be paid he entered into an arrangement with Jason Gubb and Jacqueline Taylor, paying them £22,000 in return for a charge in that sum over their property.

‘He also purchased his property for £51,000 under the right to buy scheme with the money passing through Gubb’s bank account to conceal its origins. In addition, Abdul Esfandmozd purchased premium bonds in the names of Gubb and Taylor and purchased another house for £70,000 cash.’

Mother and son posed as carers in fraud

TWO people who posed as Abdul Esfandmozd’s carers to help in the fraud will be sentenced later this month.

Jacqueline Taylor and her son Jason Gubb were friends with the conman.

They helped him launder the money and hide his cash from the authorities so that he could continue to receive his benefits.

Gubb put £51,000 through his bank account, which Esfandmozd used to buy his council flat in Somers Town. Taylor was found with £70,000 of Esfandmozd’s money.

Pictures found in the raid at Esfandmozd’s flat showed him and Gubb enjoying a hot air balloon ride in Bristol and Taylor on holiday with Esfandmozd in Malta.

Gubb, 41, of Lower Sydney Street, Bristol, has pleaded guilty to being concerned in the acquisition of criminal property between June 2006 and March 2007.

Taylor, 65, of the same address has pleaded guilty to being concerned in the acquisition of criminal property between March 2002 and May 2005. She has confessed to a charge of possessing criminal property from April last year.

Esfandmodz will be back in court in November when Wessex CPS will seek to claw back some of the money he claimed.

Major investigation uncovered the crimes

THE huge scam was uncovered when council officers noticed Abdul Esfandmozd’s paperwork was not in order.

He had not submitted receipts for the care work he was supposed to be buying with the benefit money.

Michael Lawther, solicitor at Portsmouth City Council, said: ‘Esfandmozd is a devious and greedy person who cheated the taxpayer.

‘The council was responsible for exposing his fraud.

‘Our internal checks raised suspicions about this case, and prompted a full investigation into his financial affairs.

‘It became clear he was a major fraudster.

‘This case shows that fraudsters like him do not get away with their crimes.’

The lengthy investigation began in 2010 and involved the council, the police and Wessex CPS.

Detective Constable Daisy Sharma added: ‘This sends a clear message to criminals that crime does not pay.

‘It also offers reassurance to the law-abiding public that we will not allow criminals to benefit from their crimes. Among other things, Mr Esfandmonzd paid for foreign holidays with the money he defrauded at a time when many people can’t afford these luxuries.

‘This investigation involved obtaining information from two counties and has taken over two years. A financial confiscation hearing is due to take place later this year.’