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Mother and son lose appeal against council home sublet scam convictions

A man from Wolverhampton who teamed up with his mother to make money by illegally subletting a council home has lost his appeal against conviction.

Harry Harriman, aged 24, of Lichfield Road, Wednesfield, had previously been found guilty at the city’s magistrates court of deliberately and dishonestly renting out his Wolverhampton Homes property while he was living elsewhere with his girlfriend. 

His mother Louisa Harriman, aged 44, of Griffiths Drive, Wednesfield, a support worker who helps vulnerable people to secure social housing, was found guilty of knowingly assisting her son with the offence. She arranged for a tenancy agreement to be signed and took rental payments into her bank account. 

The pair appealed against their convictions claiming there was insufficient evidence and that the offences did not happen. Both appeals were dismissed by His Honour Judge Butterfield QC and 2 lay magistrates after a 2 day hearing at Wolverhampton Crown Court. 

The court heard that Harry Harriman rented out his council home to a vulnerable mother and her 2 teenage children. 

Text messages between the Harriman’s and the tenant were shown to the court which clearly demonstrated that each defendant was well versed in the rules and that the pair were knowingly participating in a deliberate dishonest arrangement. 

The city council were informed about the fraud through anonymous tips offs to the Wolverhampton Homes online fraud reporting service. 

Once the Harriman’s realised they were under investigation, they forced the woman and her children out of the property and changed the locks. 

The former tenant, who has subsequently found alternative accommodation, gave evidence at the hearing which Judge Butterfield concluded was “honest, credible, compelling and unshaken”. In dismissing the Harriman’s appeals he said the offences had “clearly been committed for commercial gain”. 

During the proceedings, the court heard that the uncovering of the fraud also prevented Harriman from purchasing the property at a significant discount under the ‘right to buy’ scheme. 

Both defendants were each ordered to undertake 120 hours of unpaid work, with Harry Harriman ordered to pay the council’s costs of £3,000 and Louisa Harriman £2,250. 

Councillor Jacqueline Sweetman, City of Wolverhampton Council’s cabinet member city assets and housing, said: “Subletting a council property is fraud, plain and simple. It is a serious offence to deprive people in genuine need of a council property which the courts have rightly punished.  

“I welcome the court’s decision to dismiss these appeals, our fraud investigators had a solid case against the Harriman’s who had been trying to make a quick buck by taking advantage of a vulnerable woman and her children. 

“I hope this case will act as a warning to anyone else who might be contemplating subletting out a council property. You run a very real risk of ending up before the courts and being convicted of fraud and duly punished.”  

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