A woman who forged rent forms in order to cheat the benefits system has ended up with fines and costs of more than £470 and a suspended prison sentence after she was prosecuted by Cheshire East Council.
For more than a year, Natasha Barnard, 30, used the fraudulent forms to claim money she was not entitled to.
Barnard, of Latham Road, Sandbach, admitted one charge of making a false representation to obtain housing benefit when she appeared before South and East Cheshire Magistrate’s Court in Crewe on November 11, 2014.
Magistrates heard that she first claimed in May 2012 while living at an address in Bridle Road, Crewe, providing a confirmation of rent form completed by her landlord showing the amount she was paying.
Housing Benefit was paid to Barnard for this property until June 2013. She then told the Council that she had moved to Broughton Road, Crewe where she submitted a new claim and provided another confirmation of rent form for that address.
An investigation by officers from Cheshire East Council’s Benefit Fraud Investigation Team found that Barnard’s forgeries continued for more than 12 months.
Barnard will have to repay state benefits of £3,667.37 that she received but was not entitled to.
Magistrates sentenced her to 12 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months, together with 200 hours of community punishment. Barnard will also have to pay £367 costs, a victim surcharge of £80 and a fine of £15 for breaching a previous sentence.
The prosecution was brought by Cheshire East Council’s legal team.
Peter Raynes, Cheshire East Council’s Cabinet member for finance, said: “This case shows that cheating the system leaves perpetrators much worse off. We proactively investigate cases like this to prevent fraudsters taking money away from those really need help.”
Residents can report people they suspect of benefit fraud by calling free on the confidential fraud hotline number 0800 389 2787. There is no need to give a name and calls are treated in the strictest confidence.
Alternatively, suspected fraud can be reported through the Council’s website at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk