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ASYLUM SEEKER JAILED FOR BENEFIT SCAM; He built African hotel with cash.

Byline: BY ADAM ASPINALL

AN asylum seeker who used nearly pounds 200,000 from a benefits scam to start building a hotel back home in Africa has been jailed for three years.

Angolan Demosthenes Barroso was behind a huge fraud involving stolen giro cheques which were then laundered through fake bank accounts.

Barroso, 34, was jailed last week after pleading guilty to two counts of conspiracy to defraud.

Paolo Alexandre, 39, from Essex, who admitted conspiracy to defraud and money laundering and Mizel Kinangh, 26, from Oxford, who pleaded guilty to money laundering, were given six-month jail terms, suspended for two years.

They were also ordered to carry out 200 hours community service.

Manuel Baltazar, from Birmingham, was given an 18-month Community Rehabilitation Order after the judge heard he was in a wheelchair facing a leg amputation.

The Sunday Mercury first exposed how the gang stole up to pounds 400,000 but were rumbled following an 18-month investigation by a joint team from the Department of Works and Pensions, police and customs.

In a raid at the Oxford home of Barroso, police found detailed blueprints of a hotel he and the gang were planning to build in Angola with the proceeds of their swindle.

Construction work had begun on the site. Police even found photos of Barroso - who claimed income support, disability living allowance, housing benefits and child tax credits - working on the hotel.

The swindle came to light in May 2005 when fraud investigators discovered a fake giro, which was traced to Barroso, who had fled war-torn Angola to live in Oxford.

Alexandre, Kinangh and Baltazar had set up homes in Birmingham and Oxford after also coming to England to seek asylum.

Both Barroso and Alexandre claimed to have been soldiers in the Angolan civil war, and said on their asylum applications they had no option but to flee the country.

But rather than find work, the gang altered giros to fit 17 fake identities and began laundering the cash through 40 different bank accounts.

Barroso and his three accomplices were seen at various cashpoints across the West Midlands withdrawing the laundered money.

Checks with financial institutions then linked their different identities with their addresses in Birmingham, Oxford, Plymouth and London - and identical handwriting was also spotted on many of the giros.

Police raids on the Midlands homes of the gang also found false IDs and passports, which proved they made frequent trips back to their homelands.

adamaspinall@mrn.co.uk
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Dec 9, 2007
Words:412
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