A couple who fraudulently claimed more than £21,000 in benefits have been put under a dusk-til-dawn curfew for six months – and face having to repay every penny.
Laura Dibbens, 30, and Melvin Jones, 28, both of Greenacres, Crewe, were sentenced at South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court (on April 23) after admitting a string of offences.
Cheshire East Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) will now order the pair to repay the benefits they illegally claimed.
Dibbens had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to four counts of dishonestly claiming benefits after failing to report a change in her circumstances.
Magistrates’ sitting in Crewe heard that her long-term partner, Melvin Jones, had joined the household but Dibbens had continued to claim income support, housing benefit and Council Tax benefit as a lone parent.
A probe by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and the DWP found that Jones had joined Dibbens as her partner in August 2007 and he had supported the family financially.
The court heard that Jones was in work and had been earning more than £400 a week during the time Dibbens was claiming state benefits.
In failing to report this change and actively maintaining the claim Dibbens and Jones received state benefits of £21,104.
Jones had previously pleaded guilty to three offences of intentionally encouraging Dibbens to commit benefit fraud.
Dibbens and Jones were both sentenced to eight months in prison suspended for 18 months with an 18-month supervision order. The court also imposed a six-month curfew from 10pm to 7am. Dibbens and Jones were ordered to pay prosecution costs of £450 and victim surcharges of £100 each.
Sentencing Judge Hussain QC said: “Dibbens and Jones had claimed monies they were not entitled to from a safeguard provided by society and in doing this they had deprived others in real need at a time when society had limited resources.”
Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “This is a shameful case of a couple defrauding the public purse.
“Prosecutions such as this send out a clear message that Cheshire East is an enforcing Council – and will take firm action to protect our taxpayers from those who abuse the system.
“Benefit fraud is simply wrong and will not be tolerated by this Council. We can reassure the people of Cheshire East that we are committed to ensuring these offenders are brought to justice.”
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