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Sunday, 18 January 2015

Benefit cheats successfully prosecuted by Council over claims scams

 

Cheshire East Council has successfully prosecuted two benefits cheats who fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

Both offenders were fined by magistrates and will now have to repay the benefits in full.

Clair Edwards-Steele, formerly of Park View, Nantwich, pleaded guilty before South and East Cheshire Magistrates Court, sitting at Crewe (on January 13, 2015), to two offences of dishonestly failing to report changes in her circumstances that she knew would affect her entitlement to housing benefit, Council Tax support and jobseekers’ allowance.

Edwards-Steele, 45, had claimed the benefits saying she was unemployed and had no income.

However, an investigation by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and the Department for Work and Pensions found Edwards-Steele was working for a leisure company.

The court heard Edwards-Steele had left work each week to sign on, so that she would continue to receive benefit payments, in the three months before she was caught.

In failing to declare this, she was overpaid state benefits totalling £2,100 between May 2014 and August 2014.

Sentencing, magistrates imposed a £125 fine, £20 victim surcharge and ordered Edwards-Steele to pay prosecution costs of £391. In addition, she will have to repay in full all the benefits she fraudulently received.

In a separate prosecution, Kelly Havard, of Cornbrook Road, Macclesfield, pleaded guilty via videolink before Crewe magistrates (on January 12, 2015) to two charges of dishonestly failing to report a change in her circumstances that she knew would affect her entitlement to housing benefit and Council Tax support.

Havard, 31, had claimed the benefits on the basis that she was a lone parent and on a low income.

However, an investigation by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and the Department for Work and Pensions found Havard’s husband had joined her household in November 2013 and had been supporting her and her family financially.

In failing to declare these changes, Havard received £1,091 in state benefits to which she was not entitled.

Passing sentence, magistrates ordered Havard to repay the overpaid benefits in full, imposed a fine of £260 and told her to pay £410 court costs.

Both prosecutions were brought by Cheshire East Council’s legal team.

Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “Benefit fraud will simply not be tolerated by this authority.

“Cheshire East is an enforcing Council and our investigations team works hard and proactively to track down offenders to protect our communities from those who abuse the rules at the expense of taxpayers.”

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

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