It made at least 165 fake applications for the benefit pay out in four years, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told. Around £450,000 was paid into the bank accounts controlled or used by 15 people involved in the racket, said Mr Harpreet Sandhu, prosecuting.
Other attempts made by them were identified as frauds by Department of Work and Pension (DWP) officials and not paid, it was said.
If all the applications had been successful the gang would have made ‘something approaching £1 million,’ concluded Mr Sandhu who claimed there was a ‘web of connectivity’ between the 14 people in the dock – nine of whom had addresses in the Black Country – and a man called Henry Baza, who was accused of ‘orchestrating’ the making of bogus claims while running a string of aliases and bank accounts.
He was allegedly supported by his 29-year-old wife Laura and his sisters Tiwone Dokowe, aged 36, who lives in Smethwick and 38-year-old Walusungu Ngwira, whose home is in Bilston.
Dokowe’s daughter Patient Kanjira, who lives on the same street, is also claimed to have been involved.
Clemence Marijeni, 44, also with a home address in Bilston, was another who controlled bank accounts in a variety of different names, it was said, while Casper Mawoko, with a home in Pendeford, allegedly allowed money from the racket to pass through two of his bank accounts.
Several of the defendants were prepared to have their bank account used to launder money generated by the fraud, the court heard.
Members of the gang supposedly filled in bogus application forms with details of a bank account under their control into which the money was to be paid.
This was submitted with a forged maternity certificate confirming either a pregnancy or birth, signed by a member of a GP practice with an official stamp meant to prove the document’s authenticity.
This included the personal identification number of the alleged signatory.
Bogus pay slips were sent with the form. These were intended to trick officials into believing the applicant met the basic requirement of having worked for at least 26 of the 66 weeks immediately preceding the birth.
Mr Sandhu claimed the extent Henry and Laura Baza were involved in the plot was disclosed in a search of his home.
Blank maternity allowance claim forms were found on the dining room table while more were discovered on two computers seized from the address along with a portion of stamp from a doctor’s surgery. The latter was allegedly for use in fraudulent maternity allowance applications.
But checks with doctor’s surgeries supposedly supporting some of the applications revealed they were bogus and details of the bank account into which the money was to be sent gave clues to those behind the racket, it was said.
The accused are: Emek Chukwurah, 52, from Barringer Square, Wandsworth; Tiwone Dokowe, 36, Mansion Crescent, Smethwick; Patient Kanjira, 19, Mansion Crescent, Smethwick; Tapiwa Madziwa, 37, Rightwell East, Peterborough; Tinashe Sagomba, 37, Dereham Road, Thetford; Poula Chikuhwa, 26, Weston Drive, Bilston; Clemence Marijeni, 44, Weston Road, Bilston; Casper Mawoko, 35, Fullerton Close, Pendeford; Laura Baza, 29, Ledbury Walk, Cottesmore, Oakham; Faith Tagarira, 20, Chapel Street, Bilston; Todd Tagarira, 39, Chapel Street, Bilston; Kudakwashe Mhembere, 36, Chapel Street, Bilston; Liberty Masunda, 44, Mapleton Road, Hall Green and Walusungu Ngwira, 38, Milton Road, Bilston.
All deny conspiring together with Henry Baza to defraud the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions by applying for and, or, receiving maternity allowance payment to which they were not entitled between May 4 2011 and August 28 2015.
The trial, which is expected to last several weeks, continues.