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Belfast fraudster let out his council pad for £50k a year as he lived in garden shed

By Tony Allen

Published 14/09/2015

Sunday Life John Gallagher, 64, from Belfast,
Sunday Life John Gallagher, 64, from Belfast,
Sunday Life The shed in which John Gallagher lived in.

This is the Belfast-born fraudster who has been jailed after he rented out his £750,000 council townhouse on Gumtree and moved into his luxurious garden shed.

A court has heard that John Gallagher, 64, could have raked in nearly £50,000 a year in rent and benefits from the council house in Fulham, west London.

The Belfastman, who was also known by the name of ‘Jim Gallagher’, lived in his converted shed at the bottom of the garden.

When council officers carried out a raid last October they found he had installed an ensuite bathroom and built-in wardrobe while illegally renting out his four bedrooms to unsuspecting tenants.

Greedy Gallagher advertised on Gumtree, charging ‘tenants’ up to £700 a month per room with a further £100 towards utility bills.

At the same time he was claiming hundreds of pounds a week in benefits including income support, pension credits and housing benefit.

Gallagher was jailed last week for 10 months after admitting five counts of fraud against Hammersmith and Fulham Council and the Department of Work and Pensions totalling £95,000 over eight years.

Hammersmith and Fulham Council charged the divorcee £139 a week for the house where he lived for around 20 years.

Sunday Life can reveal that his 61-year-old wife left him before the fraud started and moved back to Belfast. She had no connection to the offences. The couple have been divorced for a number of years now.

Gallagher’s world fell around him when council dole snoops received a tip off about his scam and covert surveillance was carried out on the house to see who was coming and going.

Inspectors also cross-referenced the mobile telephone number Mr Gallagher provided when he had applied for a parking permit and found it linked to Gumtree adverts for rooms to rent.

He had been renting his rooms out for up to £700 per room per month, plus £80-£100 a month towards utilities and deposits of £300-£540 per room.

The property, where he was the sole tenant, was raided in the early hours of October 20 2014 and the full scale of the fraud was uncovered.

Sentencing Gallagher at Isleworth Crown Court Recorder Harenda Da Silva QC said the deception had been ‘sophisticated’ and was ‘too serious’ to give a suspended sentence.

The jailing of crooked Gallagher has been welcomed by local councillors. A Hammersmith and Fulham Council spokesman said they were reviewing their options as to Gallagher’s tenancy but at the moment “he is still the legal tenant’’.

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