Jail for man who faked £7m will to cheat charity

A man has been jailed after he faked a relative’s will to prevent a charity benefitting from a multi-million pound legacy.

Paul Coppola, 65, admitted forging the signature of Desiderio Coppola just days before his death.

The deceased left his £7m estate to be divided between his family and wished for the balance to be left to the charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres.

Paul Coppola was set to receive £100,000.

However, days before Desiderio Coppola’s death, the court was told Paul Coppola presented a new will to the family that made no mention of the charity.

Fiscal Ann MacNeill told the court that the day after Desiderio Coppola’s death, the accused contacted his goddaughter, Elvira Fearn, to tell her about the content of the faked document.

The fiscal said: “Although she had no knowledge of the wills or the deceased’s intentions, she was suspicious of the will because she was aware that the deceased hated to pay tax and she did not believe that he would have omitted Medecins Sans Frontieres completely and left the residue to the accused as there would have been a large tax liability to pay.”

She added: “Elvira Fearn was of the opinion that the changes to the will reflected the accused’s allegiances rather than the wishes of the deceased.”

Sheriff Frank Crowe said: “Your actions caused much grief, inconvenience and disappointment to the other legatees and your friends and uncertainty to the tenants of properties which were rented from the deceased.”

Coppola was jailed for two years at Edinburgh Sheriff Court.




Landlord Horror After Fighting Legal Battle

A novice landlord said she fought a legal battle to regain possession of her rental property but was horrified to find it trashed and covered in faeces.

Angela Leeming, 62, says she spent more than £10,000 in court costs, damage repairs and lost rent.

Leeming said her tenant left dog and cat faeces on carpets and furniture, as well as mounds of litter piled high in every room of the terrace house.

Leeming also found mouldy food, old clothes and alcohol bottles everywhere and the oven was also missing a door.

The tenant, a single mother-of-three in her 30s, stopped paying rent in March last year.

As reported by the Mirror, Leeming said,

“My husband has had difficulty sleeping and it has put a lot of pressure on him as well as myself.

“The smell in the house is absolutely horrendous.

“It is awful – the tenant cannot tell me they did not smell it.

“There was animal faeces everywhere – it was on the carpet and draws.

“It had even got into the underlay – I can’t see why people would leave it in such a terrible state.

“This is a really big issue because the landlords have no rights but the tenants do.

“We were tempted to sell the house off and move on but as my husband said it would mean the previous tenant had won.

“We will carry on going and hopefully the home will be taken on by loving tenants.

“I feel like we are the victims.

“Despite winning a court order we’ve had to pay all the costs and fees because the tenants could not afford it because of their financial situation.

“Landlords have no rights.

“There are lots of schemes landlords have to adhere to and follow to protect tenants, yet there’s nothing for us.

“I know not all landlords are good but my husband and I are caring genuine people.

“It’s just not fair. My husband and I left the house in a condition we were happy to live in – it was immaculate.

“On three occasions she was given 14 days notice to leave and she ignored it.

“To me tenants should just get one warning as all the legal work can become expensive.”



Property Tycoon Settles Divorce Dispute

A property tycoon who claimed his estranged wife was not entitled to a share of his fortune because their marriage certificate was fake has settled a High Court dispute.

Asif Aziz said last month that he and his estranged wife Tagilde Aziz were both born abroad and obtained a “fake” marriage certificate so a child they had adopted could get a passport.

Mrs Aziz, however, disputed his claim and said they were married for 15 years and claimed she is entitled to a “fair share” of the marital finances she put at £1.1 billion.

Mrs Aziz, who is in her 50s, maintained that a Muslim ceremony of marriage had taken place in Malawi in 2002.

Lawyers for both sides have now told Mr Justice Moor, at a public hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London, that an agreement had been reached.

Details of the terms of the settlement were not given.



Landlord caught renting ‘coffin-like’ cupboard

A landlord was found to be renting a “coffin-like” cupboard to a man in London as a room.

Inspectors for Newham Council discovered the one-metre by two-metre understairs space in an overcrowded house in Beckton.

According to the council, the four-bedroom house had already been fitted with 11 “sleeping spaces,” with bunk beds crammed into single rooms.

Officers also discovered serious fire and electrical safety hazards in the two-storey house, with the gas meter stored in the understairs cupboard.

Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales said, “It cannot be right in the 21st century, in one of the world’s wealthiest cities, a young man is being forced to pay hundreds of pounds to rent a cupboard under the stairs, sleeping alongside the gas meter.

“The scenes we saw on this visit are a timely reminder that, while by tackling bad landlords we are driving up standards, there is still much to do. That is why it’s imperative that the government allow us to continue with this work, and stop the exploitation of tenants.”




Couples could be committing accidental bigamy

A senior High Court judge has suggested that couples could be committing accidental bigamy after he cancelled 21 divorces organised by a disgraced former barrister.

Sir James Munby, the president of the High Court’s family division, said Khalik Bhatoo used false addresses on the divorce petitions and had forged signatures and filled out forms on at least nine of them.

According to Sir James Munby, the couples were technically still married, even if they had subsequently remarried and had children with a new spouse.

This also means that any later marriages would automatically be null and void.

The cases, which dated from 2006 to 2015, were at various stages of completion, with some only at the petition stage, while others had been finalised. 20 were marriages, while one was a civil partnership.

The case was brought by the Queen’s Proctor who is able to intervene in cases of divorce or probate where dishonesty is suspected.

Sir James said, “Underlying proceedings were tainted by deception in relation to the address of either the petitioner or the respondent, and the decrees, where decrees have been granted, were obtained by deception.”

Mr Bhatoo was called to the bar in 1999 and was disbarred in 2006 after being convicted of falsely claiming housing benefit and council tax.

He was further found guilty of three offences of professional misconduct in May 2005.




Couples will be allowed to apply for a divorce online

Couples will be able to apply for divorce online as part of a £1 billion reform of the justice system.

The scheme is being tested at three sites in the UK and is due to be extended to other centres in the coming months, the Ministry of Justice said.

It is part of a £1bn reform of the justice system and would allow couples to carry out the process online for the first time.

A spokeswoman for HM Courts and Tribunals Service said: “We have a world-leading legal system and are investing over £1bn to reform and enhance our courts to deliver swifter justice.

“We have launched the first divorce application services online at three sites and will be extending the testing over the coming months. These measures will simplify the process for divorce applicants and help progress applications quickly.”

The digital system has been piloted at East Midlands Divorce Centre in Nottingham for the past ten months, the Telegraph has reported.

Under the current system anyone seeking a divorce must fill out paper forms and send them to a court for consideration.

The reasons for the marriage ending have to be set out and agreed before a decree nisi is granted. A decree absolute can be issued six weeks afterwards, which legally ends the marriage.




Benefit cheat with over £50,000 in his bank account dishonestly claimed tens of thousands

A benefits cheat who had over £50,000 in his bank account after receiving money from an inheritance has been sentenced after illegally claiming more than £30,000.

Constantino Fenu, 63, was sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court after pleading guilty to seven counts of benefit fraud.

The court heard Fenu received benefits he was not entitled to including housing benefit, council tax benefit, and jobseekers’ allowance between 2009 and 2011.

Fenu failed to notify Cardiff Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that he had received inheritance which meant he was no longer eligible to receive benefits.

The fraud was uncovered by the Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Fenu is now paying £200 a month and has paid back almost £20,000 of the amount he claimed.

Sentencing, Judge Stephen Hopkins QC said: “You have by a cat’s whisker avoided an immediate custodial sentence.

“You knew the amount of inheritance you received would effect the amount of benefit you were entitled to.

“You are an intelligent man so don’t be so stupid in future.”

Fenu was sentenced to eight months imprisonment suspended for two years and was ordered to carry out 80 hours of unpaid work.



Court of Appeal allowed a husband’s appeal against an order made by a Family Division judge

The Court of Appeal allowed a husband’s appeal against an order made by a Family Division judge that he should pay his wife a lump sum even though a Russian court had previously made a consent order following Russian divorce proceedings in which they both had legal representation.

Following an evaluation of all the relevant factors, the Court of Appeal concluded that it had not been appropriate for the Family Division to have made an order under the provisions of the Matrimonial and Family Proceedings Act 1984 (MFPA 1984) relating to financial relief after an overseas divorce, and therefore its lump sum order would be set aside.

The couple had been divorced in Russia in 2009. A financial consent order was made in the Russian proceedings settling the wife’s worldwide claims. As a combined consequence of the implementation of the Russian order, operation of law and an agreement between the parties, the wife was granted $10m, the use of a house in Kensington during the children’s education, and child maintenance.

The wife, however, applied in the English court for financial relief under MFPA 1984, Pt III in 2014, arguing that she had not been provided with sufficient financial provision under the Russian order and sought a further £9.8m.

The husband appealed and argued that no relief should have been ordered in favour of the wife under MFPA 1984, Pt III.

The Court of Appeal, having evaluated all the relevant factors, reached the conclusion that it had not been appropriate to make an order under MFPA 1984, Pt III. The wife was also ordered to pay the husband’s costs of and incidental to the appeal, to be assessed if not agreed.



Pensioner in court over benefit fraud

A retired nurse is accused of creating false tenancy agreements and claimed she rented her £400,000 home in order to claim £66,000 in benefits that she wasn’t entitled to.

Margaret Ayensu, 71, lied over a period of ten years and fraudulently claimed pensions credit and housing benefit.

In addition, Ayensu also created several false letters to support her claims.

Ayensu, from Storrington, was spared jail by a judge due to her age and her years of public service working as a nurse.

However, Ayensu will have to repay more than £66,000.

Gareth Burrows, prosecuting, told Lewes Crown Court, “She claimed she had no income coming in and she was renting her property.

“She provided a rental agreement from a landlord in the name of Margaret McAlpine, but that was a name she had previously used. He property belonged to her.

“She claimed housing benefit from 2005 for the address that was in fact hers.

“She then subsequently provided a letter from a Cecil Grey confirming the rental. Again that letter was false.

“A further letter was provided in 2009 and that letter was on headed paper and again saying there was a rental agreement on that property.

“Again that letter was fraudulent. Whilst her deceit may not have taken considerable effort it was over a long period of time.”

Martin Williams, defending, said Ayensu had fallen into financial difficulties after retiring but had not realised there were benefits available that could help her while struggling to meet mortgage repayments.

Recorder Tom Nicholson-Pratt told Ayensu, “If you had gone about this in a legitimate way you could have got some help.

“You come before the court for dishonesty over a considerable period of time, between 2006 and 2017.

“You provided false documents to support your claim.

“You must have realised as this was going on you could stop it at any time. But you perpetuated it.

“You are now 71 years of age and have some health concerns.

“I take the view that in the circumstances of this case I can suspend your 12 month sentence and there will be a rehabilitation requirement on you.

“I know you are not going to put yourself in this position again.”