BENEFIT thieves suspected of stealing nearly £1million from the taxpayer have been personally busted by the Welfare Secretary in a dawn raid.
Police swooped on the organised criminal gang at dawn last week – kicking down the doors at two separate addresses in Bradford and Worcester after their elaborate scam was foiled.
Mel Stride attends a dawn raid last week on suspected benefit thieves
Police and DWP officers storm the property in Bradford
Work and Pensions Secretary Mel Stride put on a stab-proof vest to join the operation and told HOAR he had the “determination of Ted Hastings” to catch more grifters.
He said: “The message has got to be very clear. Sun readers don’t expect our benefits system to be abused.”
A long-running DWP investigation suspected the gang had swindled more than £900,000 of taxpayer cash through around 1,000 bogus Universal Credit claims.
Cops trawled the properties and seized evidence for their criminal probe. Arrests were made and the probe is ongoing.
Mr Stride, who joined West Yorkshire Police for the 5.30am sting, blasted crooks who cheat our benefits system.
He told the Sun: “This is a suspected organised gang who have been systematically defrauding the taxpayer.
“And effectively stealing also from the vulnerable is how I see it, because this is money that’s meant for people that need it, not to go to fraudsters.”
The Tory Minister warned swindlers he was “ramping up” plans to root out benefit fraudsters who are costing the taxpayer billions of pounds a year.
He revealed his team of fraud-busters will increase to 2,000 by September and 3,000 by the end of the year, and hopes to save the public purse more than £9billion by 2028.
Putting criminals on notice, he warned: “I consider my role here and my department as being first and foremost a caring, decent department…
“But we can only do that if people play fair with us. And where they don’t, we will be as hard as nails in clamping down on these people.
“If people are going to abuse our benefits system, we will catch up with them and we will deal with them. So the message is don’t do it, because we will find you. It’s as simple as that.”
Benefit scams exploded during the pandemic when the government rapidly dished out billions in welfare support.
Mr Stride said he was “proud” of that and had no plans to reduce the speed at which payments can be doled out.
Following the Line Of Duty-style raid, he told the Sun: “I have at least the determination of Ted Hastings to clamp down on things that are wrong and to do the right thing.
“We are a department of compassion, but we are also a department that’s not going to be taken for a ride.”
Mr Stride has launched a benefit fraud crackdown
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