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Crime Cyprus

Limassol police uncover homeless scam they say cost state at least €35,000 (Updated)

Limassol police HQ

Limassol police have arrested the head of an organisation purportedly helping the homeless on suspicion of defrauding the state of at least €35,000 over a period of more than a year.

They also picked up the owner of a hotel, aged 57, and an employee aged 66 later Sunday on suspicion of being in on the scam, plus a 75-year-old who was claiming to be homeless but wasn’t, who is also connected with the same case, police said.

The 46-year old head of the organisation to help the homeless was arrested after complaints by the Limassol welfare office, which suspected a fraud was being perpetrated. He, the hotel owner and employee are due to appear in court on Monday.

The suspected offences were carried out between August 2018 and October 12, 2019, Limassol police spokesman Ioannis Soteriades told CNA on Sunday.

“The case is very serious.  The state has been deceived,” he said. “On the basis of the information police have so far, the amount of money the state has paid is €35,000 but it may be much higher since investigations are still in the early stages.”

Soteriades said the complaint was made by the Limassol welfare office, which gives out cash so that homeless people can stay at certain hotels and be fed.
“Since taking statements yesterday we came to a safe conclusion about this case and we are investigating criminal offences, in particular, conspiracy to commit a felony, seizure and attempt to seize property under false representations, and fraud,” he added.

It appears the suspects would go out and find homeless people and take them to the hotel and then allegedly ‘cook the books’ to make it look as if the homeless people were staying longer than they were to gain more of the funding.

Soteriades said in some instances welfare officials accepted assurances from the hotel management that the beneficiaries were indeed staying there even though during visits and inspections by the office, many of the homeless people being claimed for, were not found on the premises.

He said police were working closely with the labour ministry on the case and were not ruling out that more suspects might be involved.

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