ELEVEN people have been charged in connection with an investigation into an alleged £500,000 benefits scam and theft from homeless people.

The arrests follow dawn raids at seven properties in Blackburn as part of operation cactus, which is looking into the suspected fraudulent payment of disability benefits.

It is also looking at the alleged exploitation of vulnerable tenants with complex needs, through the control of their bank cards as well as the direct payment of universal credit and housing benefits into the bank accounts of home owners renting out their properties. Police said some of the alleged victims are homeless and have drug and alcohol misuse issues.

Four women and eight men were arrested during yesterday's raids and police have now confirmed that 11 of those have been charged.

Khalida Zarif, 49, of Preston New Road, Blackburn has been charged with conspiracy to defraud, theft and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Sakib Zarif, 31, of Preston New Road, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud, theft and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Faisal Zarif, 30, of Preston New Road, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Atif Zarif, 19, of Preston New Road, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Anisa Zarif, 24, of Preston New Road, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Fozia Zarif, 28, of Columbia Way, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

David Neale, 51, of Kirby Road, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Anthony Preece, 46, of Shear Brow, Blackburn, has been charged with conspiracy to defraud and dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Mohammed Zarif, 59, of Redlam, Blackburn, has been charged with dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for self/another or cause/expose other to loss.

Patrick Leggat, 43, of Selbourne Street, Blackburn, and Mohammed Sadiq, 45, of Hollin Bridge Street, Blackburn, have both been charged with theft.

They have all been released on bail to appear at Blackburn Magistrates Court on July 18.

A 36-year-old woman, from Blackburn, arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and theft has been released under investigation pending further enquiries.