A pensioner has been jailed for six months after admitting fraudulently claiming more than £60,000 in a benefits scam.
Stanley Oldfield, 72, was also ordered by Chester Crown Court to repay all the benefits illegally claimed, totalling £62,977, within six months – or face a further 12 months behind bars.
Oldfield, of Lower Greenshall Lane, Disley, had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two offences of dishonestly failing to report changes in his circumstances in relation to claims made for income support, pension credit and Council Tax Benefit.
Oldfield had claimed the benefits on the basis that he was on a low income and had less than £16,000 in capital or assets.
However, an investigation by Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and the Department for Work and Pensions found Oldfield had bought three properties on Anglesey – in Holyhead, Amlwch and Rhydwyn – in March 2002, which were now worth a total of more than £500,000.
In 2013 the three properties were valued at £260,000, £160,000 and £85,000. During interviews with investigators, former demolition contractor Oldfield said he had bought them to renovate as investments. He then rented them out and also failed to declare the rental income to the benefits office.
In failing to declare these properties and the capital available to him, Oldfield was overpaid state benefits totalling £62,977.41.
The court order to repay the money within six months or face a further jail sentence was made under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.
Councillor Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “This prosecution sends out a very clear message that the Council and courts will come down firmly on those who attempt to defraud the taxpayer.
“Cheshire East is an enforcing Council and we will take robust action, as we did in this case, to protect our communities from those who abuse the rules at the expense of taxpayers.
“Benefit fraud will not be tolerated. Last year we successfully brought 48 prosecutions for benefit fraud – and we are keeping up the pressure to catch 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