A Greenwich councillor lied to town hall bosses after it was found that she owned three homes while applying to be a council tenant, a jury heard today.
Glyndon ward representative Tonia Ashikodi, first elected for Labour in a by-election in 2016, then attempted to cover up the fact she owned the properties by submitting a “sham” document to the council’s head of legal, Inner London Crown Court was told.
Ashikodi, 30, is charged with two counts of fraud by false representation in applications to Greenwich Council for housing in October 2008 and May 2012, which she denies. She is also charged with committing an act intended to pervert the course of justice in May 2018. She denies this charge.
Her father, Tony Ashikodi, 50, is also charged with committing an act intended to pervert the course of justice at the same time. He denies the charge.
Robert Fitt, prosecuting, told the court that the council had lost over £67,000 as a result of the alleged fraud – the cost of putting someone up in temporary accommodation for the time Ashikodi had been living in her council home in Robert Street, Plumstead.
The jury heard that Ashikodi first applied to go on the council housing register on 2 October 2008, but was not allocated a home until May 2012. However, he said, on both the day she applied for a home, and on 30 May 2012, when she signed her tenancy agreement, she was the owner of three properties; in Epstein Road and Nickleby Close, Thamesmead; and at Valiant House in Valley Grove, Charlton.
“These were frauds by false representation because Ms Ashikodi told these lies to Greenwich, knowing they were lies, in order to obtain a council house for herself without having to give up any of the three house she already owned,” he said.
Furthermore, the prosecutor said, on the same day she signed the tenancy agreement for Robert Street, Ashikodi is also alleged to have signed an agreement renting out the Valiant House property to paying tenants. The rent at Valiant House was £850 per month, the jury was told. “That is quite a lot more than she was paying the council for Robert Street,” Fitt told the court.
“There may be a dispute over whether Ms Ashikodi signed this document or not, but on the face of it, this is what she has done,” he added.
Jurors were also shown a Land Registry form dated 6 June 2012 – two days after her tenancy in Robert Street began – transferring the property to an another individual, where Ashikodi’s signature had been countersigned by a solicitor. “This is clear evidence that Ms Ashikodi knew she owned the property at Valiant House only days after accepting a council house,” he added.
Fitt said that Ashikodi “knew full well that she was not entitled to a council house if she owned other properties”, adding that she had studied a postgraduate law course at a college in Waterloo in 2012.
‘This document is a sham’
He told the jury that Ashikodi had been told by another councillor after the May 2018 council election that Greenwich conducted Land Registry checks on newly-elected councillors, and had decided to approach the council chief executive, Debbie Warren. He said that Ashikodi had told Warren that her father had only transferred the properties to her three weeks beforehand, and claimed that she had no idea he had done this.
“In reality, Land Registry documents show that he transferred three properties to his daughter on 19th November 2007,” Fitt said.
“It was at this point that she and her father attempted a cover-up,” he said. The following day, he continued, they presented a trust deed to the council’s head of legal, John Scarborough. It was dated 18 May 2018, and dealt with the two properties still owned by Tonia Ashikodi, at Epstein Road and Nickleby Close. It purported to show that from November 2007, she had held the properties as “trustee for sale”.
“That is completely at odds with what Ms Ashikodi told Debbie Warren,” he said, adding that the two properties had not been sold, and that no document dated from the time existed.
“This document dated May 2018 is a sham, a false document created to try to prevent Greenwich Council from mounting an investigation into Ms Ashikodi’s claim for social housing.”
Fitt added that it was “not clear what the defendants are saying” about the third property, at Valiant House.
The trial also heard evidence from Paula Clarkson, a team leader in the council’s unauthorised occupancy team. She confirmed that on Ashikodi’s application to live in council housing, she had said she had been living with her aunt in Glenalvon Way, Woolwich since 2001, and complained of mould and overcrowding in the property.
Greenwich Council’s chief executive, Debbie Warren, will be among a number of senior council officers called to give evidence.
The trial, before Judge Benedict Kelleher, continues on Wednesday.
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