A couple fraudulently pocketed more than £44,000 in benefits after pretending she was a ‘hard-up single mum’ and he was just her landlord.
Now the pair have narrowly escaped serving a jail sentence and will have to pay back in full the money they fraudulently claimed during more than five years of deceit.
Lisa Podmore, 32, and Paul Hodkinson, 30, both of Larch Avenue, Basford, Crewe, were both sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment suspended for two years when they appeared before Chester Crown Court (October 2, 2015).
The Court heard that Podmore claimed housing benefit, Council Tax benefit, income support and child tax credits from September 2008, saying she was a lone parent with no income and that she had no relationship with her landlord, Hodkinson.
However, Cheshire East Council’s benefit investigation team and investigators from the Department for Work and Pensions discovered Hodkinson was not her landlord but in fact her partner, who was living with her and supporting her financially.
The court also heard Hodkinson had assisted Podmore to make the fraudulent claims by completing a false confirmation of rent document for Podmore to provide to the Council to support her claim for housing benefit, which listed him as the landlord for her property.
In actively maintaining the false claims for benefits, Podmore and Hodkinson admitted fraudulently pocketing £44,143 in benefits over a period of five and half years.
In addition to the suspended jail sentence handed down by the court Podmore and Hodkinson were ordered to complete 150 hours’ unpaid work and will now have to repay in full the benefits they fraudulently claimed.
Councillor Les Gilbert, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member in charge of finance, said: “This is a shocking case and the successful prosecution of this pair reinforces the message that benefit fraud will not be tolerated by this authority.
“We are an enforcing Council and committed to ensuring that such offenders are brought to justice.
“This case highlights that cheating the system only leaves perpetrators much worse off in the end. We proactively investigate cases like this to prevent fraudsters taking money away from those who genuinely need help.”
Since January 1 this year, Cheshire East Council has uncovered more than £980,000 in benefit fraud and prosecutions have led to 51 criminal convictions.
The Council has also imposed 38 penalty notices and issued 45 cautions. All the fraudulently received monies are being recovered and repaid by the 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