Three fraudsters who falsely claimed a total of more than £60,000 in benefits have been successfully prosecuted by Cheshire East Council.
The trio of cheats will now have to repay in full all the benefits they obtained by deception.
Claire Clements, of Talke Road, Alsager, pleaded guilty before South and East Cheshire Magistrates Court, sitting at Crewe (on September 11, 2015), to falsely receiving housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and income support totalling more than £30,000 to which she was not entitled.
Clements, 41, had claimed the benefits on the basis that she was on a low income. However, an investigation by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team found she had received a financial settlement payment of £42,000 in June 2010, which she had not declared to benefit officials.
In failing to declare this, Clements fraudulently received £31,554 in state benefits in total from Cheshire East Council, Newcastle-under-Lyme Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
Magistrates sentenced Clements to 24 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months and ordered her to do 120 hours’ unpaid community work.
She was also ordered to pay £701 court costs and a £80 victims’ surcharge and will have to repay in full the overpaid benefits.
In a separate prosecution, Diane Scott, of Marple Crescent, Crewe, pleaded guilty before Crewe magistrates (September 9), to obtaining housing benefit to which she was not entitled.
Scott, 51, had falsely claimed the benefits saying she was on a low income. However, an investigation by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team discovered Scott had failed to declare her ownership of a property and the rental income she received.
In failing to declare this, she was overpaid state benefits totalling £9,174 over a period of two and a half years.
Magistrates sentenced Scott to do 120 hours of unpaid community work and ordered her to pay prosecution costs of £550 and a £60 victim surcharge. In addition, she will have to repay in full all the benefits she fraudulently received.
In another prosecution, Kirsty Towers, of Moss Drive, Middlewich, pleaded guilty before Crewe magistrates (on September 11, 2015) to three charges of failing to report her earnings in relation to her claims for housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and Council Tax support.
An investigation by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team found Towers had received £19,962 in benefits to which she was not entitled.
Magistrates sentenced Towers to do 120 hours’ unpaid community work and ordered her to pay court costs of £650 and a victim surcharge of £60. In addition, she will have to repay in full the benefits she fraudulently obtained.
All three prosecutions were brought by Cheshire East Council’s legal team.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet member for communities, said: “Benefit fraud will not be tolerated. We are an enforcing Council and we are determined to stop fraudsters from helping themselves to money that belongs to law-abiding members of the public.
“The defendants in these cases thought they could get away with claiming benefits they were not entitled to – but they were making a very big mistake and will find themselves worse off as a result.
“They have ended up with criminal convictions for a serious offence of dishonesty and now each face a big bill to repay the money they have fraudulently claimed.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards benefit fraud because we are determined to ensure that the benefits system works for people who really need help.”
Since January 1 this year, Cheshire East Council has uncovered more than £878,000 in benefit fraud and prosecutions have led to 28 criminal convictions.
The Council has also imposed 24 penalty notices and issued 24 cautions. All the fraudulently received monies are being recovered and repaid by the offenders.
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