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Saturday, 16 May 2015

Council crackdown nets three benefits cheats who fraudulently claimed more than £30,000 of taxpayers’ money

 

A crackdown by Cheshire East Council has led to the successful prosecution of three benefits cheats who fraudulently claimed more than £30,000 of taxpayers’ money.

All three offenders have been sentenced by magistrates and will now have to repay the illegally-obtained benefits in full.

Joanne Phillips, 49, of Fanshawe Walk, Crewe, admitted fraudulently obtaining £20,823 in housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and Council Tax support. Phillips claimed she was a lone parent on a low income.

However, Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team found she had continued to claim benefits as a lone parent for more than seven years after her daughter had been removed from her care.

Phillips was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a two-month curfew imposed from 7pm to 7am. Magistrates also ordered her to pay £575 court costs and a victim surcharge of £60.

In a separate prosecution, Sophie Giles, of Peckforton Walk, Wilmslow, admitted fraudulently obtaining £6,636 in housing benefit and Council Tax benefit. She claimed she was living alone and on a low income.

However, investigations by the Council found Giles was living with her partner, who was supporting her financially.

Giles, 26, was sentenced to a 12-month community order and ordered to do 130 hours’ unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay court costs of £575 and a £60 victim surcharge.

In a separate case, Tracy Wrench, of Blagg Avenue, Nantwich, admitted fraudulently obtaining £7,067 in housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and Council Tax support by failing to declare she had savings totalling £16,000.

Wrench, 42, was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement to do 130 hours’ unpaid work. She was also ordered to pay £395 court costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Cheshire East Council has taken steps to ensure that the overpaid benefits are repaid in full. The authority actively pursues the recovery of all fraudulently obtained money to ensure taxpayers don’t lose out.

All three prosecutions were brought by Cheshire East Council’s legal team and heard at South and East Cheshire Magistrates’ Court, sitting at Crewe (on May 11, 2015).

Steph Cordon, head of communities at Cheshire East Council, said: “Benefit fraud will simply not be tolerated by this authority.

“Cheshire East is an enforcing Council and our investigations team works hard 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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