A BLACKBURN man, said to be a ‘lieutenant’ in a £27,000 nationwide benefits scam, has been found guilty of conspiracy to defraud.

Shakeel Butt, 27, of Lambeth Street, was yesterday convicted of the charge by a Burnley Crown Court jury, on the eighth day of trial.

His co-defendant, Lucy Gakunga, 21, of Ryland Road, Urdington, Birmingham, is due to appear at court today for her role in the scam.

She is also accused of conspiracy to defraud. The jury has not yet reached a verdict on her and will continue it's deliberations today.

The court has heard how pensioners were cheated out of payments by benefits official Vajid Ashraf, who siphoned the money into a web of bank accounts. The hearing had been told Butt was said to have been one of Ashraf's lieutenants.

He had admitted he met Ashraf at a gym, but denied agreeing to take part in a benefits fraud.

Ashraf, 33, of Cumberland Avenue, Burnley, who worked at the Pensions Centre in Simonstone at the time, has admitted conspiracy to defraud.