Members of a wealthy Blackburn family who lied about their disabilities have been jailed for a £50,000 benefits fraud.

Khalida Zarif, 51, was jailed for 12 months and her son Sakib Zarif, 33, was given 15 months for conspiracy to defraud.

Sakib’s sentence also includes a count of theft, as well as another conspiracy to defraud offence, which relate to him fraudulently using a motability vehicle belonging to one of his tenants and the theft of another tenant’s benefits, after he had died.

Last week, Faisal Zarif, 31, was handed a 20-week sentence suspended for one year and Atif Zarif, 20, was given a 12-month community order for their part in the conspiracy, as they claimed to act as carers for Khalida or Sakib, due to medical conditions they were seen to be no longer suffering from.

They each previously pleaded guilty to the offences at a hearing in January 2020.

A joint investigation between Lancashire Constabulary and the Department for Work and Pensions started in February 2019 after concerns were raised about the potential exploitation of some of the Zarif's tenants.

The family, who live together at a large house on Preston New Road, Blackburn own a portfolio of properties in Blackburn and each drove expensive cars such as BMWs or Mercedes Benzs.

Detectives found that Sakib played a key role in the conspiracy and he, along with his mother Khalida, grossly exaggerated illnesses and disabilities to claim associated benefits.

When applying for disability payments in August 2016 and in April 2019, Sakib claimed that following an assault in 2015 in which he was the victim, he had been left unable to prepare meals for himself and had to eat blended food through a straw and could not lead a normal life.

Such was the so-called damage to his left arm, he said he was unable to drive or remove medication from blister packs.

This was in sharp contrast to his muscular appearance and behaviour witnessed during the investigation in 2019, such as carrying a child with his left arm, taking part in an arm-wrestling competition, regularly driving, exercising in the gym - with his left arm - and dancing.

His blatant dishonesty led to him being overpaid £13,502 by the DWP.

Prior to the assault in 2015, he had also been in receipt of carer’s allowance for his mother, Khalida, for conditions which she had failed to disclose had significantly improved.

On 2 July 2018, a £37,000 BMW 320 car was delivered which was in the name of one of the family's tenants. The tenant had got this while legally claiming disability benefits as part of the Motability scheme. A £2,749 down-payment had been made on the car in May 2018 and it was found that Sakib regularly drove it. Police believe that the true owner of the vehicle never drove it.

When Sakib was arrested on March 28th 2019, boxing and baseball equipment was found in the boot of the BMW as well as debit cards and PINs that did not belong to him or his family.

The police investigation also revealed that in October 2018, one of Sakib’s tenants died but someone continued to withdraw the man’s benefits, with Sakib’s vehicle being seen in the vicinity of the cashpoints where the money was taken from.

The man’s PIN code was found in Sakib’s phone when it was seized by police. Officers informed the DWP who stopped the benefit payments. In total, over £1,650 had been taken from the dead man’s bank account.

Khalida had been on a high rate of disability payments for many years. In her 2015 disability benefit application, she stated that she had suffered from an array of medical conditions including a mental illness, very severe pain in her back resulting in reduced mobility, vertigo and blackouts, severe arthritis and joint stiffness, a heart problem and diabetes and needed a Zimmer frame.

The police investigation in 2019 found that Khalida and that many of these claims she made in her 2015 disability benefit application were no longer true. During surveillance in February 2019, she was seen many times lifting heavy items including bags of shopping, walking without any assistance, driving a 68 plate Mercedes and attended the bank, engaging in financial transactions. This was at odds with the claims in her application that she required the help of family to assist with communication.

In addition, Khalida was seen watering plants and carrying a large plant pots in her garden, picking up a wooden bird table she had knocked over, as well as lifting a child on to some swings and out of a car. This was despite her earlier statement that she was unable to lift her arms or legs to get dressed.

Staff at the Job Centre stated that Khalida regularly visited to fill in forms so she could be paid rent from tenants, said she was always clean and smartly dressed. This was different to what her benefit application included.

In total, she was overpaid almost £24,000.

Faisal Zarif, another of Khalida’s sons, claimed carer’s allowance for his mother and another relative, in June 2007 despite them not requiring the level of care that they claimed. He also disclosed earnings that were in excess of the amount permitted to be able to claim carer’s allowance. He was overpaid almost £11,425.

Khalida’s youngest son, Atif, claimed to care for his brother, Sakib and also received over £2,500 in associated benefits. This was down to the false claims made by Sakib about the extent of his medical conditions.

Atif said he was caring for Sakib for at least 35 hours per week, which was false. He too has disclosed earnings that exceed the cap to be eligible for carer’s allowance.

In all, the total of the deception by the family was over £51,000. As part of the Zarifs’ conviction, the money is being paid back.

Detective Sergeant Stu Peal said: “The Zarifs, particularly Sakib and his mum Khalida, were motivated by pure greed, telling lies or not updating the DWP so they could get money they were not entitled to.

“Not satisfied with conning the DWP out of thousands of pounds with lies about his condition, Sakib Zarif went even further, callously stealing money from a dead man and drove a luxury BMW motablity car which he had no right to, having got it from another vulnerable tenant.

“These people, through their sheer dishonesty, have made a mockery of real, deserving benefit claims made by those who require and are entitled to the help of these payments, for genuine reasons.

“I would like to thank my colleagues at the Department for Work and Pensions for their co-operation and assistance during this complex investigation and hope this case serves as a warning to other greedy fraudsters, who, through their lies and exaggerations are taking money from the system which is there to help those in need. They will be found, no matter how many years they think you have been getting away with it."

If you suspect someone is committing benefit fraud, please contact the DWP on 0800 854 440. For more information, please go to www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud.