A woman is facing a bill of more than £18,000 after she falsely claimed to be hard-up in order to obtain benefits.
Amy Wilkinson, 28, of Mardon Close, Knutsford, applied for housing benefit and Council Tax benefit in April 2011, saying that she was on a low income, was living in a privately-rented property and needed assistance with her rent and Council Tax bills.
She also made a claim for income support to help her and her daughter as she had no other income.
However, investigators from Cheshire East Council’s benefit fraud investigation team and the Department for Work and Pensions found she had failed to declare that her mother owned the property for which she was claiming housing benefit.
They also discovered that Wilkinson’s partner had joined her household in January 2012 and had been supporting her and the family financially.
Over a two-year period, she received a total of £17,604 in state benefits that she was not entitled to.
Wilkinson admitted two charges of dishonestly making false representations in order to claim housing benefit, Council Tax benefit and income support when she appeared at South and East Cheshire Magistrates Court (on Wednesday April 15, 2015).
Magistrates sentenced her to 24 weeks’ imprisonment suspended for 24 months and ordered her to pay costs of £675 and a victim surcharge of £50.
In addition to the sentence, Wilkinson will have to repay in full the benefits that she fraudulently obtained.
The prosecution was brought by Cheshire East Council’s legal team.
Steph Cordon, Cheshire East Council’s head of communities, said: “It is a big mistake for fraudsters to think they can get away with claiming benefits they are not entitled to.
“They risk ending up with a criminal conviction for a serious offence of dishonesty and being ordered to repay the money they have falsely claimed.
“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.”
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