A woman who fraudulently claimed nearly £30,000 in benefits has been handed a suspended jail sentence and ordered to repay all the money.
She was also ordered by magistrates to carry out 300 hours’ unpaid community work.
Lauren Drummond, 27, of Ruskin Road, Crewe, pleaded guilty at South and East Cheshire Magistrates’ Court to one charge of dishonestly failing to report a change in her circumstances that would have affected her entitlement to housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and income support.
Magistrates sitting at Crewe heard (Monday, November 3, 2014) that Drummond had claimed income support and Council Tax benefit since June 2008, as a lone parent with three dependent children, after her partner left the household.
She continued to claim these benefits and additionally claimed housing benefit from July 2008, when she advised the Council and the Department for Work and Pensions that she had moved address but was still a lone parent on a low income.
However, investigators from Cheshire East Council’s benefit investigation team and the Department for Work and Pensions discovered that when Drummond moved to her current address, in July 2008, her partner had rejoined the household and had been supporting her and the family financially.
Drummond failed to declare his return and financial support and continued to receive benefits, fraudulently, for more than three years and was unlawfully overpaid state benefits totalling £29,932.99.
In sentencing, magistrates said the offence was a ‘significant fraud committed over a long period of time’ with a ‘significant loss to public funds’.
Drummond was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for 24 months, and ordered to complete 300 hours’ unpaid work with an education and training element. Drummond will also have to pay investigation and legal costs of £497 and a victim surcharge of £80.
Drummond will also have to repay all the benefits that she was overpaid.
The prosecution was brought by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and legal team.
Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “We are an enforcing Council and prosecutions such as this send out a message loud and clear: that people who try to cheat the system and hard-working taxpayers will be pursued by this authority and brought to justice.
“Benefit fraud will simply not be tolerated and we will act firmly to protect our local communities from those who criminally abuse the benefits system to line their pockets at taxpayers’ expense.”
If you think someone is committing benefit fraud, you can ring the confidential freephone fraud hotline on 0800 389 2787. You don’t have to give your name and your call will be treated in the strictest confidence.
Alternatively, you can report suspected fraud via the Council’s website at: www.cheshireeast.gov.uk