• Monday, May 20, 2024

News

Mother forged documents to secure admission for son in top school, court hears

Bhakti Shah, 38, claimed she was living in Edgware, but in reality, he was living in Hendon

Representational image (iStock)

By: Pramod Thomas

A court heard that a mother pretended she was living in an elderly couple’s home to secure admission for son in a top school in north London.

Bhakti Shah, 38, a trainee conveyancer, claimed that she was living in the home in Edgware, as it fell within the catchment area of Mill Hill County High School.

However, she was living in Hendon, 3.4 miles away and outside catchment area of the school, the MailOnline reported. Mill Hill allocates just 158 places to those who live within 1.3 miles.

To execute her plan, she fabricated energy and council tax accounts for the property, forged contracts and tenancy agreements, and even intercepted the owners’ mail by claiming it was mistakenly delivered to her, Willesden Magistrates’ Court heard.

However, council employees detected inconsistencies in certain documents, ultimately exposing Shah’s scheme.

According to the report, Shah had applied for a school placement and initially said that she intended to develop a piece of land in Beech Walk, Edgware, situated behind the elderly couple’s residence.

The landlocked plot had been purchased by her former partner. However, when Barnet council’s admissions team rejected her application, stating that the decision must be based on her current address, Shah lodged a complaint. Subsequently, she altered her story, claiming that she indeed resided at the property adjacent to the land.

But the land was owned by an elderly couple who had never met her before and were left astonished to find they were building up council tax arrears when they had always paid their bill promptly.

“Had the council accepted she had moved in to and had not discovered discrepancies her son would have secured a place at Mill Hill County School. Ninety-nine per cent of the time documents are uploaded and taken at face value but here there were discrepancies which warranted further investigation,” prosecutor Parina Patel told the court.

“Had it not been for the diligence of the school admissions team in verifying the documents and asking questions, the application would have gone through. Shah’s actions caused the real occupiers ‘unnecessary distress’, as bills mounted.”

The court heard that the original owners had resided there for a decade and had no plans to relocate.

Initially, Shah mistakenly listed an incorrect house number on the fraudulent sales contract, necessitating the submission of a revised version, which constituted an additional offense.

She also engaged in various deceptive activities, including fabricating energy and council tax accounts for the property, forging contracts and tenancy agreements.

When the council expressed doubts about her change of residence, Shah fabricated a false tenancy agreement claiming that she was renting out her property in Hendon.

However, it was revealed in court that she was, in fact, a tenant herself, and her landlord confirmed that she had been residing at the address continuously.

Her lawyer Daniel Cavaglieri told the court that his client ‘wholeheartedly accepts what she did was wrong’, and claimed her career prospects were now in tatters.

District Judge Lorraine McDonagh ordered a pre-sentence report to be prepared and placed Shah on unconditional bail.

Barnet Council is seeking £5,064.29 in costs as part of the legal proceedings.

During the trial, Shah confessed to eight charges of intentionally utilising forged documents between October 29, 2021, and May 20, 2022.

The sentencing is scheduled for June 8.

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