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Sunday, 6 December 2015

Council’s crackdown on benefit fraudsters sees more than £1m being clawed back for taxpayers

 

A Council crackdown on benefit fraudsters has led to more than £1m being clawed back for Cheshire East taxpayers and more than 50 people being convicted by courts this year.

The landmark figures were revealed as the Council successfully prosecuted three more people in the Borough for benefit fraud.

Since January 1, 2015, the authority’s benefit investigations team has uncovered more than £1.128m in fraudulently-obtained benefits – which is to be repaid by the offenders – and achieved 56 convictions.

The authority has also imposed 51 penalty notices and issued 55 cautions.

Cheshire East Council actively pursues the recovery of all fraudulently-obtained money to ensure the taxpayer does not lose out.

Councillor Les Gilbert, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of communities, said: “A figure of £1.128m is a significant amount of money that is successfully being reclaimed for our local taxpayers.

“These latest prosecutions, and others like them, send out a very clear message that we are an enforcing Council and that crime does not pay.

“Benefit fraud will not be tolerated and we have continued to take robust action to protect our communities from those who abuse the rules at the expense of taxpayers.

“I congratulate our enforcement teams on their hard work on taxpayers’ behalf.

“The message is clear: people who think they can get away with claiming benefits they were not entitled to are making a very big mistake. Those who cheat the system will be brought to justice.

“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.”

The latest successful prosecutions against three offenders netted fraud totalling more than £19,800. They were ordered to repay the money obtained by deception in full and pay out more than £800 in fines and court costs.

Nikayla Thomas, of Cranberry Lane, Alsager, pleaded guilty before South and East Cheshire Magistrates Court, sitting at Crewe (on November 11, 2015), to making a false statement to obtain housing benefit and Council Tax benefit.

The court heard that Thomas, 27, had failed to declare she was in work when she made her application for housing benefit and Council Tax Benefit, which led to her receiving £6,426 in benefits that she had not entitled too. 

Sentencing magistrates imposed a curfew on Thomas between 8pm and 7am for an eight-week period and ordered her to pay costs to the Council of £450, court costs of £100 and a £60 victim’s surcharge.

In a separate prosecution, pensioners John Pullen, 71, and Lynette Pullen, 69, of Bollin Drive, Congleton, pleaded guilty before Crewe magistrates (November 13), to making a false statement to obtain housing benefit and Council Tax benefit to which they were not entitled.

The court was told the husband and wife had submitted a joint application form for benefit to the Council, in August 2011, in which they failed to declare that Mrs Pullen was in work. 

In submitting the false claim, the Pullens received £13,441 in benefits from the Council that they were not entitled to. 

Magistrates sentenced Lynette Pullen to 12 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 12 months and ordered her to complete 200 hours’ unpaid community work, pay £375 prosecution costs and an £80 victim’s surcharge. 

John Pullen was sentenced to 80 hours’ unpaid community work and ordered to pay £375 costs and a £60 victim’s surcharge.

In all cases where an individual has been prosecuted the overpayment will have to be repaid in full. All three prosecutions were brought by Cheshire East Council’s legal team.

If you think someone is committing benefit fraud, you can ring the National Benefit Fraud hotline on 0800 854 440. You don’t have to give your name and your call will be treated in the strictest confidence.

Alternatively, you can report suspected fraud at www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud

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