A corrupt town hall official gave sought-after council homes to family members and illegal immigrants in return for tens of thousands of pounds in backhanders.
Ibrahim Bundu, who worked in a council’s homelessness unit, pocketed up to £4,000 a time for helping people jump the queue by faking documents and medical records.
He arranged for homes for members of his extended family, including his mother, wife and ex-wife, in a scam which cost taxpayers at least £3.7million. Bundu himself netted at least £50,000.
Investigators found he was behind 28 bogus applications in Southwark, South London, where more than 20,000 people are on the local authority’s waiting list.
Many of those helped by Bundu, 50, were from the war-torn country of Sierra Leone, from where he had travelled to Britain in 1988.
Yesterday the former car mechanic was jailed for four years for the ‘audacious’ scam, believed to be one of the biggest of its kind.
Sentencing him at Woolwich Crown Court, Judge Douglas Marks Moore said his actions ‘undermined the trust’ necessary for ‘the functioning of our society.’
He said: ‘It was a hugely organised, premeditated system that was in place and you were instrumental in its development.
‘Due to your position of responsibility and insider knowledge, you knew the requirements for applications to succeed. It is hard to over-estimate the scale of your criminality.
‘You did not do this for purely altruistic reasons as you received significant financial benefit, a minimum of £53,000.
‘The message must go out that those in a position of trust who commit crimes will be dealt with by the courts.’
Bundu, who worked for Southwark Council, created false identities to ensure his applicants jumped the two-year waiting list.
He forged reams of hospital records, birth certificates, employment papers and tax records to create realistic case files.
In return he pocketed cash bungs from relatives and others, including a large number of people who were in the country illegally.
The racket continued for three years and came to light in 2011 when data from the Audit Commission revealed one of his tenants was entirely bogus.
An internal fraud inquiry uncovered a paper trail of false documents which led to dozens of other fraudulent cases co-ordinated by Bundu.
Checks by the UK Border Agency and HMRC revealed a number of applications had resulted in homes being given to people not legally allowed to be in the UK.
House prices in Southwark average £460,000, putting the total value of homes handed out at more than £10million.
Michael Goodwin, prosecuting, said: ‘He was paid £1,000 to £4,000 a go. This he put into a saving account and kept it there earning interest.
‘For every day one of the bogus applicants was in the house, the council was losing money as they would have to home people in private accommodation.’
Bundu, of Peckham, South-East London, admitted misconduct in public office and money laundering.
His mother Marie Bundu, 63, and his ex-wife Ada Kamara, 43, as well as two other unrelated women, appeared alongside him in the dock.
The judge told them: ‘You were all complicit in this deceit, however I consider your criminality to be equal.
‘You dishonestly obtained accommodation that you knew you were not entitled to and remained in there until discovered.’
They received suspended prison sentences of up to eight months after admitting theft and obtaining property by deception. His wife Farmata Koroma, 35, will be sentenced later.
A spokesman for Southwark Council said: ‘Public sector fraud is not a victimless crime. It can take homes away from people who need a roof over their heads.’