Landlord compiles £1m property holdings… whilst claiming £73,500 in benefits

Ref. Bristol Crown Court – Adrian Callen (defendant) – 22/11/2012 T20120789

A 57 year old man from Bedminster Down, Bristol, has been convicted in the Crown Court of 9 counts of benefit fraud, relating to a £1m property portfolio he built over eight years whilst falsely claiming thousands of pounds worth of benefits. A six year jail sentence faces the man, whilst his property holdings dramatically fall apart.

Adrian Callen is reported to have submitted applications for various benefits, claiming he had no income and that his savings amounted to just £250. But the courts found that Mr Callen was, in reality, receiving thousands of pounds a month from flats in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, and elsewhere in the South West. He had 10 properties in his ownership, spending weeks renovating them and using the rent to fund vast mortgages.

Things turned sour during the economic downturn, however, and most of these properties are now reputedly in negative equity. Saddled with approximately £800,000 worth of mortgage debt, it has been revealed that he claimed a vast £59,886 income support, £8,923 in council tax allowance and £4,882 in Jobseekers’ Allowance.

His situation was summed up by Timothy Rose, mitigating, who said:

“He is mortgaged to the hilt. He is in an utter mess. It is estimated that he owes up to £800,000 in mortgage debt. Some if not all of these properties are in negative equity.

“He is being pursued by bailiffs and he has handed me a whole sequence of ‘red letter’ demands.”

The courts revealed that Mr Callen started claiming the money when he became the sole carer for his then four-year-old grandson, after social services informed him he would need to quit his job to care for the boy.

He then signed forms stating that he had no savings, properties or investments, despite it since being revealed that he had £29,000 in savings hidden in a bank account at the time.

In April 2003 he purchased his first property with cash, a flat in Splott, Cardiff for £38,000, and sold it a year later, in July 2004, for £107,000.

In the following years he continued to lie about his real income, leading Judge Julian Lambert to describe him as a “greedy” cheat. He said:

“What you did was deliberate and greedy. Yours was one of the worst types of this fraud. This behaviour makes honest folk who struggle to get by feel sick. Your behaviour incites ill feeling towards genuine benefit claimants.”

According to mitigator Timothy Rose, Mr Callen has accepted full responsibility for his actions and is beginning to pay back his debts.

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