FORMER Zimbabwe international footballer Liberty Masunda has been slapped with a three-year jail term after he was convicted as being part of a gang that conned £450 000 in maternity payments in the United Kingdom.
Masunda, who starred for Blackpool and also had a brief spell in Turkey, was part of the 12-member gang of Zimbabweans that was convicted.
The gang claimed £720 000 in maternity allowance payments over more than four years, but got their hands on less than half a million pounds worth after DWP officials became suspicious.
Most of the group, who include journalist Clemence Marijeni, were from the West Midlands in England.
The others were Poula Cikuhwa, Tinashe Sagomba (38), Toad Tagarira (50), Kudakwashe Mhembere (37), Faith Mavis Tagarira (41), Tiwone Dowoke (38), Walasungu Ngwira (39), Patience Kanjira (19), Casper Mawoko (36), Tapiwa Madziwa (37).
Others were based in Peterborough and Norwich.
Following their sentencing yesterday, a DWP spokesman said: “People who steal identities or use fake ones in order to receive benefits they don’t deserve are cheating money out of hardworking taxpayers and stealing funds, which should be used to help those who really need them.
“In addition to any sentence imposed by the court, these benefit thieves must pay back all the money they falsely obtained and face a criminal record for life.”
Prosecutor Gurminder Sanghera said: ‘These defendants set up an expert operation to create false documents and falsely stamp them to ensure they were accepted by the DWP.
“As a result of their actions, there has been a loss to the taxpayer of £450 000 in false payments.
“Many of the defendants denied knowing about the fraud, or that their bank accounts were used. Evidence put forward by the CPS showed they each played an integral part of the scheme and ultimately the jury has found them guilty.”
Masunda was sentenced to three years in prison, Sagomba to five years and Tagarira to four.
Dokowe, Madziwa and Ngwira were each sentenced to six years in prison. Mawoko got four years.
Mhembere was jailed for two- and-a-half years and Tagarira to 22 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Kanjira was sentenced to 14 months in prison, suspended for two years.
Each denied conspiracy to defraud, but were convicted by a jury. — Mailonline.