Man jailed for stealing £10,000 Covid grant set free after six weeks

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The ex car wash owner who lied to get a small business grant appealed his sentence.Izzldenein Yousif scammed £10,000 meant for struggling small businesses.A man jailed for stealing a £10,000 emergency Covid business grant has been released after spending just six weeks behind bars.Izzldenein Yousif conned Liverpool City Council by falsely claiming he was entitled to support for his car wash business in Fairfield.

He didn’t mention Izzy Bizzy Hand Car Wash on Prescot Road had stopped trading three years earlier and he’d left the unit in 2019.

When the council rang the 65-year-old to confront him over the fraud, Yousif lied by saying he’d already spent the money and hung up, before later using the cash to buy a taxi.

Judge Anil Murray said Yousif’s claims had “an impact on society” and a “deterrent sentence must follow” when he jailed him for six months in July.

But the fraudster appealed against the sentence and this week his lawyer Callum Ross convinced top judges sitting at the Court of Appeal to set him free.

Liverpool Crown Court previously heard how the government had awarded the Liverpool region just under £108m to give small businesses grants “to help support them through the economic downturn”.

In order to qualify for the grants, businesses must have been trading as of March 11, 2020 and been in receipt of small business rate relief.

Yousif emailed the council on July 30, 2020 to say he hadn’t received a grant for his car wash and was entitled to one.

This wasn’t true because he had left the premises at the end of 2018 and by February 2019 there was a new tenant there.

On August 6, a council officer emailed Yousif telling him if he wanted a grant, he should make a formal application.

Yousif submitted a signed form the next day and was awarded £10,000, which was deposited into his account on August 12.

On August 25, the council’s fraud and compliance team received a tip-off from a member of the public about Yousif’s fraud.

The owner of the business now at the unit also reported receiving letters addressed to Yousif.

A council officer called Yousif in early October, when the fraudster said he had spent the money and abruptly ended the call.

Enquiries led police to the abandoned Newsham Park Hospital, where Yousif was living, on January 28 this year.

He tried to escape over a fence but was arrested at the scene.

When interviewed told police he felt he was “entitled” to the grant because of business rates he had paid in the past.

Yousif, of Orphan Drive, Newsham Park, who admitted fraud, has since paid all of the money back.

He had one previous conviction for criminal damage and threatening behaviour in February 2008.

Speaking at the hearing in July, Mr Ross, defending, said his client no longer stood by comments made in a pre-sentence report, when he tried “to exculpate himself and your honour may think place some blame on the council and police”.

Mr Ross urged the judge to spare Yousif jail, suggesting there was a “realistic prospect of rehabilitation” and that Yousif was assessed as a low risk of reoffending, had “thankfully” repaid the money and was “remorseful”.

He said Yousif was born in Sudan, but “fled” the African country in 2000 as a “political refugee” and was now a British citizen.

The lawyer said Yousif had recently worked as a taxi driver but his taxi had since been seized by the police.

Mr Ross said Yousif had siblings with children in Sudan, to whom he sends £300 per month, and they were to some extent his “dependants”.

He said Yousif, who had started a new job as a warehouse operative for The Hut Group in Warrington, was “upset” his family would be affected financially if he was jailed.

Judge Murray told Yousif: “You knew, as we all did, that businesses in this country needed help during the Covid crisis and there was a huge demand for such money.”

The judge added: “You prevented that money from being available for some other legitimate public need.”

Judge Murray didn’t accept that Yousif was remorseful because of what he had said in the pre-sentence report.

He said: “That you took money meant to help businesses during the Covid 19 pandemic means this is a case where the appropriate punishment can only be achieved by immediate custody.”

Yousif appealed against his sentence, meaning it was reconsidered by Lord Justice Males, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb and Mr Justice Murray in London.

Mr Ross argued it was not a case where a deterrent sentence was necessary and his client’s strong mitigation meant his prison term should have been suspended.

He told the Court of Appeal that Yousif didn’t have any relevant previous convictions, had been employed most of his life and highlighted that the pre-sentence report also spoke positively about how he was willing to work with the Probation Service.

The three top judges again rejected any claim that Yousif was remorseful.

But they agreed with Mr Ross’ submissions and said given all the mitigation they had heard, Yousif shouldn’t have been jailed.

They quashed the sentence of six months’ imprisonment and handed Yousif six months in jail, suspended for 12 months.

Author: James Osondu

Sofia Bureau Chief- Bulgaria

osonduj@hotmail.com

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