Twelve people have been arrested in connection with a large scale benefit scam following dawn raids across Blackburn this morning (Wednesday, June 26th).
A team of police officers arrested the four women and eight men at seven addresses in relation to the suspected fraudulent payment of around half a million pounds in disability benefits.
The action, codenamed ‘Operation Cactus’, is also looking at the alleged exploitation of vulnerable tenants with complex needs, through the control of their bank cards as well as the direct payment of universal credit benefits/ housing benefits into the bank accounts of home owners renting out their properties.
The investigation is being supported by the Insurance Fraud Bureau (IFB), the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
The following are being held on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and theft:
1) Four women aged 49, 21, 24 and 36 from Blackburn
2) Six men aged 31, 59, 30, 20, 52, 43 and two men aged 45, also from Blackburn.
They remain in police custody at this time.
DS Stu Peall from the East Division Exploitation Team said: “Today’s action is the culmination of months of work looking at not just benefit fraud but specifically a number of tenants, who are particularly vulnerable people suffering with drug and alcohol issues, potentially feeling coerced into signing over the payment of their benefits to the person or people they rent their property from. This means they never see or have ownership of the money they are entitled to.
“On top of this, some tenants have had their bank cards taken from them meaning they have had no access to cash they may need.
“We think that this has been going on for some time and that there are more victims than we are aware of. If you think that you or a friend or family member could have been a victim of this kind of exploitation, please speak to us. We appreciate that you may feel apprehensive, concerned or scared to make contact but it is really important that you tell us what has happened.”
You can call us on 101 quoting incident reference 543 of 19th June.
Alternatively, independent charity Crimestoppers can be reached on 0800 555111 or online at crimestoppers-uk.org.
Detective Superintendent Mark Vaughton speaking after the raids.