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Council takes ten years to notice black woman isn't white

PUBLISHED: 09:37 22 July 2015 | UPDATED: 16:03 22 July 2015

Bromley Civic Centre

Bromley Civic Centre

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Former employee who impersonated Frenchwoman jailed

A former employee of Bromley Council fooled the authority for a decade by pretending she was white - when she was actually black.

Stephanie Okpaire claimed she was a Paris-born Frenchwoman called Stephanie Dole – but was actually born in Nigeria.

But she ended up with a jail sentence after the council finally realised what was happening after ten years.

Okpaire, 43, of Pontefract Road, Bromley, had provided a French identity card and a UK driving licence when she applied for the job in 2004.

But last year, when the council was performing checks, she provided a UK passport in the name of Stephanie Okpaire which said she was born in Nigeria.

She resigned after being unable to provide either her birth certificate or a full UK driving licence.

When the council checked with the French Consulate, the consulate provided a photograph of the real Stephanie Dole.

Okpaire, who was employed by the council between April 2005 and February 2015 and paid a total of £178,686, admitted theft by deception at Croydon Crown Court.

She also admitted four counts of housing benefit fraud, having wrongly claimed £11,432 between February 2000 and August 2006.

She was jailed for 15 months and ordered to pay £2,500 costs, and will also have to pay back the housing benefit.

Judge Tanzer described Okpaire as a “serial offender”.

Councillor Neil Reddin, chairman of Bromley’s audit committee, said: “We welcome the custodial sentence in this case.

“It not only reflects the seriousness of the fraud, but also that it was disappointingly perpetrated by a former member of staff.”

Anyone with information about benefit fraud should call the confidential fraud hotline on 0800 169 6975 or email audit@bromley.gov.uk.

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