A couple who fraudulently claimed more than £18,000 in benefits secretly had more than £140,000 hidden in bank accounts.
Now the pair have each been ordered by magistrates to do 160 hours’ unpaid community work – and repay every penny of the benefits they cheated from taxpayers.
Deborah Otter, 35 and Nigel Bailey, 47, both of Coronation Avenue, Alsager, pleaded guilty at South Cheshire Magistrates’ Court (on July 14, 2014) to two charges of making false representations in order to obtain housing benefit and Council Tax benefit.
Magistrates sitting at Crewe heard that Otter and Bailey had claimed housing benefit and Council Tax benefit since December 2007, on the basis that they were on low income and needed help to pay their rent and Council Tax.
However, investigations by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud team found the couple had more than £140,000 concealed in bank accounts they had fraudulently failed to declare.
Had they declared these sums to the Council, Otter and Bailey would not have been entitled to benefits.
Cheshire East Council investigators found Otter and Bailey had been overpaid state benefits totalling £18,749 – which magistrates have ordered the pair to repay in full.
Magistrates also sentenced Otter and Bailey to each carry out 160 hours’ unpaid community work. The pair were also ordered to pay court costs of £400 and a victim surcharge of £120.
The prosecution was brought by Cheshire East Council.
Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “This is a totally 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 robust action to protect our taxpayers from those who abuse the system to line their own pockets.
“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.
“Last year we successfully brought 48 prosecutions for benefit fraud – and we are keeping up the pressure to catch offenders.
“Since April 1 (2014), alone, we have already successfully prosecuted 18 people for benefit fraud. We are making it clear that, when it comes to benefit fraud, we will track down offenders to ensure crime simply doesn’t pay.”
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