Members of a wealthy Blackburn family of landlords with a portfolio of properties have been sentenced for defrauding the Department for Work and Pensions of thousands of pounds.
Khalida Zarif was jailed for 12 months and her son Sakib Zarif was given 15 months for conspiracy to defraud.
Sakib Zarif’s sentence also includes a count of theft, as well as another conspiracy to defraud offence, which relate to him fraudulently using a motability vehicle belonging to one of his tenants and the theft of another tenant’s benefits, after he had died.
Two other family members are also implicated.
Faisal Zarif was handed a 20 week sentence suspended for one year and Atif Zarif was given a 12 month community order for their part in the conspiracy, as they claimed to act as carers for either their mother Khalida or their brother, Sakib, due to medical conditions they were seen to be no longer suffering from.
They each previously pleaded guilty to the offences at an earlier hearing in January.
A joint investigation between Lancashire Constabulary and the DWP started in February 2019 after concerns were raised about the potential exploitation of some of the Zarifs’ tenants.
The family, who live together in Blackburn, own a portfolio of properties in the Blackburn area, and according to a police statement “each drove expensive, high performance cars such as BMWs or Mercedes Benzes.”
Detectives found that Sakib Zarif played a key role in the conspiracy and he, along with his mother Khalida, grossly exaggerated illnesses and disabilities to claim associated benefits.
When applying for disability payments in August 2016 and in April 2019, Sakib claimed that following an assault in 2015 in which he was the victim, he had been left unable to prepare meals for himself and had to eat blended food through a straw; was not motivated to take care of himself or his personal hygiene; had lost all pride in his appearance; needed prompting to clean himself or change his clothes; relied on his parents to help him; thought everyone outside his house wanted to cause him harm; lacked confidence communicating with people and felt much physical pain, particularly in his left arm which also had reduced capacity meaning he could not use cutlery to eat. Such was the so-called damage to his left arm, he said he was unable to drive or remove medication from blister packs.
The police statement says, however: “This was in sharp contrast to his muscular appearance and behaviour witnessed during the investigation in 2019, such as carrying a child with his left arm, taking part in an arm-wrestling competition, regularly driving, exercising in the gym - again, with his left arm - and dancing. His blatant dishonesty led to him being overpaid £13,502 by the DWP.”
On 2 July 2018, a £37,000 BMW 320 car was delivered which was in the name of one of the families’ tenants. The tenant had got this whilst legally claiming disability benefits as part of the motability scheme.
A £2,749 down payment had been made on the car in May 2018 and it was found that Sakib Zarif regularly drove it. Police believe that the true owner of the vehicle never drove it.
The police investigation also revealed that in October 2018, one of Sakib Zarif’s tenants died but someone continued to withdraw the man’s benefits, with Sakib’s vehicle being seen in the vicinity of the cashpoints where the money was taken from.
The man’s PIN code was found in Sakib’s phone when it was seized by police. Officers informed the DWP who stopped the benefit payments. In total, over £1,650 had been taken from the dead man’s bank account.
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