THE ringleader of a 13-strong gang behind a Government Crisis Loans scam is behind bars for his part in the £15,000 con.
Matthew Rock, 22, was jailed for 15 months for orchestrating a three-year swindle involving bogus claims for fictitious children and the use of stolen identities.
Leeds Crown Court heard how Rock, of Esther Avenue, Lupset, was “well known” for being able to get the loans - which are designed for society’s most needy - and even touted for applicants by text or in person.
His 12 co-defendants, who provided their identities for the fake claims and picked up the cheques from the job centre on Thornhill Street, were sentenced to lengthy amounts of community service by a judge who told them it was “payback time”.
Earlier prosecutor Simon Clegg told how Rock was at the centre of the fraud, which included 88 claims from 19 different people.
He said claims were made to provide food and essentials for their children, some who never existed or weren’t in their care.
The court then heard about a series of claims to a hotline between March 2009 and February 2012 where £23,808 was applied for and a total of £15,081 was received.
Some of the money was squandered on drink and drugs.
Some of the gang made multiple claims to the Social Fund which resulted in payouts of more than £1,000 while others made single claims measured in the hundreds.
Cheques would then be sent to a Job Centre and the claimant would pick them up, cash them at a Post Office and split the proceeds with Rock.
The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, told Rock he had a particularly effective telephone manner but had used it to devise a fraudulent scam on Crisis Loans.
He said there were claims to provide food and essentials for children who either didn’t exist or weren’t living with the claimant.
The judge added: “You have orchestrated claims by some 12 defendants and there are six other people in whose name claims were made, often provided by one of your co-defendants.
“You have effectively borrowed the identity of your co-defendants and you stole the identity of the others. This went on for a period of three years.”
Rock pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and 16 charges of entering into an agreement in relation to stolen Crisis Loan agreements.
Matthew Harding, mitigating for Rock, said the number of offences and the length of time it went on for suggested a degree of professionalism and sophistication that the actual crime didn’t warrant.
Mr Harding said: “They had to attend a job centre with their own identification. At some stage the money had to be paid back. Detection was almost inevitable. Once the investigation process was started it didn’t take long for Matthew Rock to be found.”
He said Rock was paying the money back and was terrified of going to jail.
Judge Collier jailed Rock but gave 12-month community orders to his co-accused.
The judge told them: “What was being done with the money obtained was to spend it on pleasure: drink or drugs. Spending it on yourselves.
“Essentially you were defrauding the public purse and today, as you appreciate, is payback time.”
Pregnant Allison Blythe, 25, of Canal Lane, Stanley, admitted fraud and entering into an agreement with Rock.
She was sentenced to 30-day medium activity requirement.
Amanda Siobahn Hendry, 22, of Carlton Street, Horbury and Matthew Jackson, 21, of Station Road, Ossett also admitted two charges of entering into the arrangement.
They must do 120 hours of unpaid work.
Thomas Philip Armstrong, 20, of Cobb Avenue, Lupset, Jack Crawshaw, 20, of Middleton Road, Morley, Graham John Freer, 30, of Haigh Moor Avenue, Tingley, Kelly Marie Hirst, 22, of Walker Street, Earlsheaton and Zoe Louise Bailey 28, of Phoenix Court, Wakefield, all pleaded guilty to one charge of entering into the arrangement.
Armstrong, Bailey and Crawshaw were all ordered to perform 80 hours of unpaid work but Hirst must do 120 hours.
Freer, who suffered a head injury in the past, was given a 15-day low level activity requirement.
Rebecca Louise Ainsworth, 22, of Temperance Hall, Morley, pleaded guilty to fraud and must do 80 hours of community service.
Carla Jackson, 22, of Thomas Hill House, Horsefair, Pontefract, pleaded guilty to two charges of entering into the arrangement. She must do 120 hours unpaid work.
Andrew Robert Blythe, 22, of Marsh Croft, Knottingley, admitted the arrangement charge and got 80 hours.
Lynsey Roebuck, 20, of Litell Royd, Streethouse, pleaded guilty to the same charge and got the same 120-hour order .