A Manchester man has been given a 23 month suspended jail sentence after he illegally sublet properties which were reserved for people in need of housing over 15 years.
Bernard Nii Allotey Hoffman, 55, of Sandywell Street, was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court on Wednesday 17, after he pleaded guilty to a string of fraud charges.
The court heard how between 2003 and 2018 Hoffman illegally obtained and rented out several council owned properties, costing in excess of £170,000.
Councillor Suzanne Richards, Executive Member for Housing and Regeneration, called it an “insidious crime” effectively taking houses away from the people who need them most.
She said: “Through the dedication of our Counter Fraud Team and our legal representatives this fraudster is finally facing the consequences of their actions.
“Affordable housing in Manchester is in high demand which is why every effort is taken to make sure the right person is found the right home.
“By chopping and changing tenancies and even going so far as to impersonate someone else, Hoffman has only thought to exploit the system, at the expense of more deserving people.
“As a Council our priority is to make sure that Manchester is a place where everyone has access to a safe, secure and affordable home.
“We will not allow fraudsters to jeopardise this goal.”
The case first came to the attention of the police when officers attended a disturbance at a property in Harlington Street in January 2018 between Hoffman and an individual he had been letting the property to.
After suspicions were raised, Jigsaw Homes Group were investigated by the Neighbourhood Safety Team and the council’s Counter Fraud team which found Hoffman had been illegally subletting this property for years.
Records showed Hoffman took up the tenancy of Harlington Street in June 2003 from Jigsaw Homes Group despite tenancy agreements which prevented the properties from being sublet.
The following day, he obtained a property in Barleycroft Street managed by Mossacre St. Vincents Housing Trust which he then vacated and sublet to his partner as well as other individuals.
Hoffman also held tenancies at Trowtree Aveue in 2001, Sandywell Street in 2010 and Rostron Avenue in 2011, two of which he used his brother’s identity to fraudulently secure.
During times throughout this period of criminality, Hoffman was in possession of three tenancies at once.
Kate Sullivan, Neighbourhood Safety Manager at Jigsaw Homes added: “We have worked closely with the Counter Fraud Team at Manchester City Council and it is testament to the hard work of everyone involved to secure this conviction.
“We take a zero-tolerance approach to tenancy fraud and we are pleased that this property is now occupied by someone in genuine housing need.”
Hoffman was ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work, pay an unlawful profit of £8,813.04 along with a victim surcharge in addition to his two-year suspended sentence.