8 Feb 2013

15 yr benefit fraud goes slowly thru legal process

A woman who was jailed after admitting a £130,000 benefit fraud now faces selling her home to pay some of the money back.

Catherine Dalby, 46, was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment in August last year after claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit for 15 years when she was not entitled to the cash.

After the sentencing hearing police carried out an investigation to see if any of Dalby’s assets could be confiscated to get back some of the money.

A proceeds of crime hearing at Lincoln Crown Court on Tuesday (six months later) heard Dalby made a total benefit of £110,000 from her crimes.

The hearing was told Dalby had “recoverable assests” of £34,000 which represented her share of the equity of her home in Cottesmore.

Jon Straw, defending, asked for Dalby, who has now been released from prison, to be given six months to sell her home and to come up with the money.

Mr Straw told the hearing: “If she experiences difficulty in selling her home it is important she comes back to court and asks for an extension.”

Recorder David Mason QC told Dalby that if the outstanding figure of £34,000 was not paid within that period she could face another 12 months imprisonment in default.

The sentencing hearing in August was told Dalby made a legitimate claim for benefits in October 1996 but within two months she married her lorry driver husband Geoffrey in a Christmas Eve ceremony.

Dalby never declared her marriage despite a number of opportunities to tell the authorities of her change in circumstances, the court heard.

The authorities discovered the fraud in April 2011 (but the sentencing hearing wasn't until August 2012) and Dalby, who was legitimately working part-time, had her benefits stopped.

Dalby had admitted failing to notify the authorities of a change of circumstances while claiming benefits.

Judge Peter Clark sentenced her to 15 months but this was cut to eight months at an Appeal Court hearing in October.

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