Up to 4 years in prison for Bulgarian benefits fraud

A court in Rotterdam sentenced the ringleader in a welfare benefits scheme to four years in prison on Tuesday. Five other suspects in the fraud case were sentenced to less harsh prison terms, RTL Nieuws reported on Tuesday.

The court found them guilty of housing, healthcare and childcare benefits fraud. The primary suspect, Mehmet K., was not in court. The Rotterdam-born man is believed to be hiding out in Turkey. His sentence matched the demand of the prosecutor.

The others convicted in the case received sentences varying between 18 months and 3 years in prison.

The six recruited Bulgarian men to arrive to the Netherlands by bus. They were then officially registered at a Dutch address, and issued social security numbers and bank accounts. Following this, the six suspects started making housing, healthcare and childcare applications on behalf of the Bulgarian men.

The Bulgarians were then given 500 euros for their efforts and returned back to Bulgaria, prosecution claims. At that point, the welfare benefits started rolling into the bank accounts, and the suspects used the Bulgarian men's bank cards to collect the payments in cash, according to the prosecution.

The fraud ended up costing the Netherlands roughly ten million euros, and the tax authorities alone ended up paying approximately 5.6 million euros in benefits.