Attempted £28k fraud uncovered by Council sees business owner sentenced

A fraudster who attempted to obtain almost £28,000 in grant funding has been sentenced in court.

Abbas Sharief, 60, of Doncaster Road, Manchester, was yesterday (Tuesday, 28 March) convicted of three counts of fraud by false representation.

This came after an investigation by the Council’s Audit and Risk Management Team, with assistance from the Council’s business rates department, who discovered that the defendant attempted to claim grants during the Covid pandemic.

They found that in April 2020, Sharief applied for and was granted £10,000 from the Small Business Rates Grant Fund – this fund extended support to business owners forced to close during the pandemic. But to be eligible the owners had to be actively trading from a registered address.

Sharief later applied for a Local Restrictions Grant on January 18, 2021, again confirming he occupied the business premises and was awarded £9,669.21.

He later applied for a Restart grant on April 13, 2021 again claiming to occupy the premises. This application was rejected but if it had been successful, he would have been awarded a further £8,000.

In June 2021 the Council confirmed that Mr Sharief was not in occupation in the registered address at the time that any of the grant applications had been made. Sharief’s representations as part of his applications for the grants were therefore fraudulent.

At a hearing held on February 9, 2023, at Manchester Magistrates’ Court, Sharief pleaded guilty to three counts of fraud. The case was then adjourned for pre-sentencing reports.

On Tuesday, 28 March 2023 at Wigan Magistrates’ Court, Sharief was sentenced to 3 concurrent terms of 26 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was also sentenced to a 12-week curfew order, enforced between 7pm and 7am.

He was ordered to pay costs of £1,000 and a victim surcharge of £129. No further financial penalty was made as the defendant had repaid the fraudulently claimed grants.

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council said: “Covid support funding was for thousands of businesses a vital lifeline during the pandemic. Many businesses which would have otherwise failed were saved as a result. It is a disgraceful breach of trust for an individual to enrich themselves during one of the most uncertain periods in modern history.

“The Council is encouraged by this sentence, believing it will send a message to other fraudsters that they will be found out and brought to justice.”

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