A Bexhill mother who fraudulently claimed more than £37,000 in state benefits while running a 'high-class' escort agency has been jailed for three years at a retrial.
Mother-of-five, Janine Adeleke, 45, of Watermill Lane, was jailed on Monday (October 16) immediately after the conclusion of a three-week trial at Canterbury Crown Court. At the trial Adeleke was found guilty of seven separate counts of fraud, including money laundering, cheating the public revenue, tax credits and benefit fraud.
The case was held as a retrial after the Court of Appeal ruled in December 2016 against a previous conviction of September 2015.
While passing sentence Judge Heather Norton said she would have handed down a longer sentence, but was “bound by law not to pass a sentence greater than that previously handed down”.
She described Adeleke crimes as “quite simply breathtaking dishonesty on an extraordinary scale over a lengthy period of time” and said Adeleke’s evidence was “evasive, difficult to follow and contradictory”.
The case was brought to trial after an investigation led by the HMRC revealed that while Adeleke claimed to be unemployed for more than seven years she was in fact running Bexhill-based escort business, Carltons of London. According to investigators, the business claimed to offer ‘high class’ escort services, providing the “finest London escorts to gentlemen of distinction”.
Investigators found that Adeleke had stolen £212,000 in unpaid Income Tax, National Insurance Contributions and tax credits payments by declaring that she had no income. She also fraudulently claimed more than £37,000 in Income Support and other state benefits, and laundered £157,000 of illicit cash.
Investigators also uncovered evidence of lavish spending by Adeleke, with £103,000 spent on beauty treatments, leisure and holidays, and an additional £88,000 spent in high street stores. They also discovered more than £1.2 million had passed through her bank accounts, enabling Adeleke to splash out at least £120,000 on private schools between November 2006 and January 2014, including a school which charges up to £30,000 a year.
Assistant director of the HMRC Fraud Investigation Service Tim Clarke said: “Adeleke broke the law to fund a lavish lifestyle and privately educate her children. She defrauded vital public services and stole benefits designed to help struggling families.
“She pleaded poverty, but this was far from the truth. She didn’t declare her income because she didn’t want to pay any tax. But she did want to claim state benefits, which are meant to support people on low incomes, and she certainly wasn’t entitled to receive them.
“Working with our investigation partners at the DWP, and linking benefit claims with tax records, our teams can identify if a claimant is lying about their work and benefit status. But our investigations don’t end when a criminal is convicted, and we are now working to reclaim the money Adeleke stole.”
HMRC say confiscation proceedings have started to reclaim the money stolen by Adeleke.