Man pretending to be David Onamade guilty of 20 year ID Fraud

Man pretending to be David Onamade guilty of 20 year ID Fraud

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Introduction

There’s identity theft, and there’s identity theft. In a story that would have got the Daily Mail salivating, a man who’s actual identity is still unknown (although he introduced himself to his wife, who was unaware of the deception, as Steven Douglas) was convicted by a jury of various offences relating to false documents and fraud on 24th November 2014.

It is a bizarre story. Mr Douglas (as we shall call him) created a false identity off the back of a real person – David Onamade a Londoner, and used this to get a National Insurance Number. He then got a job as the Director of the ‘Somerset Racial Equality Council’.

He presumably did a good job of it, as there were no complaints or doubts raised during his nine year tenure. It all unravelled last year however when the Charity shut down (it doesn’t seem to relate to any mismanagement by Mr Douglas).

After that, Mr Douglas claimed Job Seeker’s Allowance. The Job Centre then seemingly put two and two together and realised that there were two people using the same number. This would then have lead to investigations which showed that only one person was the real Mr Onamade.

We don’t have the sentencing remarks, but Mr Douglas got a 9 month sentence. Having spent 13 months on remand, this has already been served. It may be, as the Judge noted, that the UKBA take an interest, but that is the end of the criminal proceedings.

 

Sentence

This would instinctively be governed by the Fraud Sentencing Guidelines. The difficulty here is that we don’t know the amount of money involved.

We do know, however, that for cases of using false identification cards  by people who are not lawfully in the country the sentence after a plea of guilty is 12-18 months if it is used to come into the country (Kolawole [2004] EWCA Crim 3047) or 6-12 months if it is used ‘in country’ (Ovieriakhi [2009] EWCA Crim 452).

It seems here that Mr Douglas/Onamade/John Doe is not lawfully in the UK. In light of that, we would have expected a starting point after a trial of least 12 to 18 months for the false documents alone. Given the lengthy period of the fraud, the use of someone else’s identity and the fraud, we would have expected a sentence of at least 2 years, if not more.

For that reason, unless there are circumstances of which we’re unaware (always possible when going off news reports) this is an extremely lenient sentence. It’s not impossible that we will see an AG Reference.

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Dan is a barrister at 2 Dr. Johnson’s Buildings practising in crime.

10 COMMENTS

  1. Who is the victim of this fraud, and out of what money have they been cheated, or might they have been cheated, by this fraud? He attempted to claim what would have been contribution-based Job Seeker’s Allowance, based upon real contributions that he had actually made, over twenty years of continuous employment.

    What is to become of his wife now?

    • The victim would be us the taxpayer if it’s JSA, although we have benefitted from his tax and NI contributions over the year.

      As to his wife, I imagine a divorce may be on the cards!

    • We don’t know, but presumably British. The days that that meant your spouse could stay automatically are long gone sadly. All sorts of tests, but the British spouse also needs to earn £18,500pa as well.

      But the home office have the right to deport him due to this offence.

      • “Spouse could stay automatically …….Long gone sadly”

        The man is a criminal, fraudster and most probably an illegal immigrant. Why on earth should he be allowed to stay, British wife or not ?

        • Not really about this case, more a general comment. Although I think family life is important – if a British citizen is in a genuine marriage, I think that they should be allowed to live in the UK in almost all circumstances.

          I declare my bias here – my wife is American and the ridiculous hoops that we had to go through with the Home Office to switch to a spouse visa has not endeared me to them…

          • Yes, I agree that genuine marriage’s should be dealt with better with less “red tape”. I have friends who went through similar to you.

            In this case I would suggest that the gentleman be repatriated to his home nation, and if his wife (British or not) wants to stay with him, knowing that he has lead a somewhat ‘Walter Mitty’ lifestyle including a totally fake identity, she should go with him.

            Just a thought – is the marriage legal if he used a fake identity ?

            However, I feel an Article 8 HR case coming soon on this one, which know doubt M’learned Friends of Strasbourg will find in his favour.

          • Interesting. I think the marriage is voidable rather than void, which means the wife can have it annulled rather than having to do a divorce.

            As to Art 8 – very unlikely that he will succeed on that one …

      • So, there’s one law for the rich, and an other law for the poor. The wife deprived of her husband’s financial support will lose her husband, whilst the wife of independent means will keep hers. What genius!

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