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14 Mar 2013

Croydon gets confiscation order against benefit thief

A mum-of-two jailed for a £100k benefit fraud has been told she must pay £23,000 or return to prison. (h/t Dave)

The ruling follows a confiscation order carried out by Croydon Council against Melissa Urquhart to find out how much she had gained from her criminal activity.

Last October, the 34-year-old, from South Norwood, was sentenced to one year in prison after admitting nine benefit fraud offences.

She had fraudulently claimed £66,000 in housing and council tax benefits from 2003 to 2011, along with more than £34,000 in income support.

Urquhart had failed to tell the council and the Department for Work and Pensions that she had inherited her father’s house in Stratford, east London.

She later used estate agents to rent the property to her boyfriend and failed to declare the rental income she received.

In the meantime she was claiming benefits to pay her rent in Croydon.

Following Urquhart’s sentencing, the council’s financial investigators discovered she had submitted false mortgage forms to buy and re-mortgage the Stratford property.

A confiscation hearing at Croydon Crown Court heard she had benefited from her crimes by around £350,000.

This includes the benefit fraud, the amount she gained in false mortgages and the rent she received on the house in Stratford.

Urquhart was ordered to pay £23,254.54, the amount she would have left over following the sale of the house.

The sale of the house will cover the rest of her criminal gains.

Failure to pay would see her sent back to prison for 12 months, though she would remain liable for the payment on her release.

Councillor Dudley Mead, deputy leader of the council, said:
We’ll not only make sure that benefit cheats are sentenced by the courts, but we will also investigate how much they have gained as a result of their criminal activity.

We will always seek to ensure any proceeds of crime are recovered and that the public purse is reimbursed.

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