Monday, 8 March 2010

Gypsy rights campaigner's benefits scam

A campaigner for Roma gipsies' rights has been charged with helping scores of Romanians illegally claim millions in benefits.

Lavinia Olmazu, 30, and her boyfriend Alin Enachi, 29, are said to have masterminded a scam by which 172 Romanians claimed £2.6million.

Olmazu, who was arrested last week, was working as an 'inclusivity outreach worker' to Roma gipsies for both Haringey and Waltham Forest councils in North London.

The academic, who has campaigned for greater understanding of gipsy culture, is accused with Enachi of using a supposedly charitable organisation called Roma Concern to help coordinate the fraud.

The couple appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on Friday alongside six gipsies, each of whom is alleged to have pocketed thousands of pounds from the scam.

Under rules introduced when Romania joined the EU in 2006, Romanian migrants cannot get a National Insurance number - which is the key to getting benefits - unless they can prove they have paid employment lined up.

Olmazu and her boyfriend are accused of giving unemployed Romanians false documentation which purported to offer them work. They are also said to have provided false invoices and references purportedly showing they were working.

Scores then used fraudulently obtained NI numbers to claim child benefit, working tax credit and child tax credit, the court heard.

The fraud was allegedly facilitated by Enachi, who attended Benefits Agency interviews with Romanians as a translator.


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