SEVERAL members of an extended family accused of carrying out a widescale benefits fraud have entered guilty pleas.

Prosecutors say the extent of the fraud conspiracy involving some members of the Arif family is nearing at least £40,000.

But further calculations are required to calculate the extent of the money cheated from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) by Sakib Zarif.

Guilty pleas were entered by Khalida Zarif, 49, Faizal Zarif, 30, Atif Zarif, 19, all of Preston New Road, and Sakib Zarif, 31, of Redlam, all Blackburn, to a charge of conspiracy to defraud the DWP between January 2007 and June 2019. Anisa Zarif, 24, also of Preston New Road, who denied the charge, was discharged from the dock after the prosecution offered no evidence against her.

Fozia Zarif, 28, of St Columbia Way, Blackburn, will face trial on March 23 over the conspiracy and dishonestly failing to disclose an improvement in her health resulting in continued payment of disability living allowance.

Prosecuting at Preston Crown Court, Bob Sastry said the amount of money defrauded by Khalid Zarif amounted to £23,975, by Faisal Zarif £11,425 and by Atif Zarif £2,611.

All five denied a further fraud offence, by failing to disclose improvements in their health, between similar dates. The prosecution said it had reviewed the case and offered no evidence in relation to those charges.

Sakib Zarif also faces a second trial, in relation to frauds concerning a BMW Motability car and his state of health. He will be joined in the dock by Khalid Zarif and Mohammed Zarif, 59, David Neale, 51, of Exeter Street, Anthony Preece, 46, of Shear Brow, Patrick Leggatt, 43, of Selborne Street and Mohammed Sadiq, 45, of Hollin Bridge Street, all Blackburn, who have each denied related allegations at previous hearings.

This trial centres on the relative health of Khalida Zarif and Fozia Zarif and carers allowance payments, as well as the receipt of personal independence payments.

Mr Sastry confirmed a fraud charge concerning Sakib Zarif, where it was alleged he continued to claim benefit for one of his tenants who had died, Daniel Walker, was being withdrawn after further evidence had come to light.

All defendants were bailed to await trial and Judge Beverley Lunt said she would review the cases of those who had entered guilty pleas at the conclusion of the trials.