A former estate agent has been told he is facing jail after he was found guilty of helping a paedophile asylum seeker to fraudulently claim housing benefit.
Malcolm Belchamber, while working at Leaders in Littlehampton, West Sussex, wrote a letter to the local district council on behalf of Osman Koroma, saying his rent had gone up.
This prompted an increase in Koroma’s housing benefit. However, suspicions were raised after the landlord asked Leaders to increase the rent after Arun District Council had received the letter – and the increase was less than had been stated in the letter.
Belchamber was dismissed by Leaders for gross misconduct following an investigation into the 2014 letter.
At his trial this month, Belchamber denied producing the letter and claimed a colleague, Gillian Clifford, had written it. She strongly denied the accusation when she appeared in the witness box.
Belchamber also denied forging an earlier letter, apparently from the Home Office, which said Koroma, from Sierra Leone, had indefinite leave to stay in the UK.
The court heard how this letter had been found in a box file in Belchamber’s bedroom wardrobe when police raided his home in connection with their investigation into the 2014 fraud.
The jury found Belchamber guilty of fraud and forgery.
Belchamber had been four times mayor of Littlehampton and was awarded an MBE for services to the town. After the verdicts, he resigned from Littlehampton Town Council. Tributes were paid to him from the three main political groups for his 40 years as a local councillor.
He was also president of the town’s swimming club, and a key figure in various other local associations, and at his trial, several witnesses attested to his good character.
Speaking after the hearing, Detective Constable David West said the relationship between Belchamber and Koroma was inexplicable. He said Belchamber’s attitude towards the authorities throughout the inquiry was of denial and defiance, adding: “He regards himself to be above all this. He never expected to be charged and brought to account.”
Koroma did not give evidence at Belchamber’s trial. He and his accomplice Max N’Gasa were last year jailed for 14 and 11 years respectively for grooming and abusing 12 young girls at the flat let to him by Belchamber when he was at Leaders. The case horrified the town.
Belchamber, 70, will be sentenced on July 24.
Daniel Dowling, legal and compliance director at Leaders, told EYE yesterday: “Malcolm Belchamber joined Leaders in 2012 when we acquired The Letting Shop in Littlehampton and Worthing. He was dismissed for gross misconduct two years ago, in June 2015, following a thorough investigation carried out by Leaders in cooperation with Sussex Police.
“We have worked with the police throughout this time, offering our full assistance to their own investigation, which resulted in the successful trial and conviction of Mr Belchamber earlier this month.”