By Lachlan Leeming
A Greenwich councillor who applied for and lived in council housing while she owned three other properties has been found guilty of fraud.
It took a jury roughly an hour of deliberation to come to the decision on Tonia Ashikodi’s case at Inner London Crown Court today.
Cllr Ashikodi, who represents Greenwich’s Glyndon ward for the Labour Party, had been charged with two counts of fraud by misrepresentation.
The councillor, 30, was accused of applying for and accepting a council home while owning three homes herself – two in Thamesmead and one in Charlton.
Cllr Ashikodi’s legal team had maintained she had been holding the homes in trust for her father, Tony Ashikodi, who was receiving rent and paying the bills on the properties.
However, a jury of four men and eight women found the councillor guilty on two counts of fraud by false representation following a short period of deliberation.
Cllr Ashikodi remained silent as the verdict was read out.
Addressing the councillor following the finding, Judge Benedict Kelleher said “these are serious matters”.
The judge added that he would consider “all sentencing options” when the matter returns to court on March 4.
Judge Kelleher also ruled out any changes to Cllr Ashikodi’s bail conditions following the verdict.
Cllr Ashikodi had been on unconditional bail throughout the trial.
“It doesn’t seem to me she’s very likely to go anywhere else and I’m sure she understands what would happen,” said Judge Kelleher.
A charge of perverting the course of justice was dropped against the councillor and her father, Tony Ashikodi, earlier in the trial.
The verdict comes after a 2018 investigation by Greenwich Council’s internal anti-fraud team in connection with the “ownership of a number of properties” by the councillor.
She was subsequently suspended by the Labour party but has remained on the council since being charged.
Following the decision, the council’s chief executive, Debbie Warren, said the authority welcomed the verdict.
“The conversations we had with Cllr Ashikodi and her father, along with the evidence we were presented with at the time, led us to believe that there was a case to answer,” she said in a statement.
“Our decision to prosecute was taken in good faith following legal advice and I would like to thank the council staff who took to the witness stand to present our case – the unanimous decision shows that their evidence was accepted by the jury as a truthful reflection of events.
The chief executive added the council’s lengthy housing waiting list added even more justification to their decision to prosecute the councillor.
“We also should not forget why we had to prosecute,” she said.
“There are 20,000 residents on our housing waiting list and more than 1,000 households in temporary accommodation.
“Cllr Ashikodi would have known this as a councillor elected to represent the interests of our residents.
“The jury has found that she lied in her application for council housing and also when she signed her tenancy agreement. As well as breaking the law, she denied someone with a genuine need for a secure home.”
“I would like to reiterate that our anti-fraud team operates autonomously from the rest of the council,” Ms Warren said.
“Officers receive information and investigate without any political involvement and this case was handled in exactly the same way as any other case – we will continue to prosecute where there is evidence of fraud against the council.”
Cllr Ashikodi will return to court on March 4 for sentencing.