15 Mar 2013

Jail for £29k benefit thief

A benefit fraudster who illegally claimed £29,000 while failing to reveal he had a property in Wales and part-owned a farmhouse in France has been jailed. (h/t Dave)

At Croydon Crown Court, Graham Axford was sentenced to 16 weeks in prison on each of three counts of fraud by false representation, to be served concurrently. He was cleared of three other fraud charges.

Last month the 58-year-old was found guilty of the charges, which related to housing and council tax benefit claimed between 2003 and 2011 while he was living in South Norwood.

Axford had failed to tell the council he owned a home near Newport, Wales and part-owned a farmhouse in Normandy, France.

In his defence he denied owning the Wales property and said he had transferred ownership of the French home to his wife.

The council discovered the fraud following an anonymous tip-off.

It will now be launching an investigation into whether he made any gains from his criminal activity, with a view to confiscating them.

Judge Peter Gower QC said:
You had dishonestly claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit for a sum just under £30,000 and you did so by making dishonest claims in 2003 and twice in 2007.

You owned part of not just a property but a home in France and in 2007 you declared to the council that you were not paying a mortgage.

That was a blatant lie. You were paying a mortgage in respect of a property in Wales that you were the registered owner of, and which you later sold, albeit it was in negative equity at the time.

As a result of your dishonest claims, you have been overpaid benefit.

It is conceded by the prosecution that your claims were not fraudulent from the outset, but it is quite clear this was a fraud carried out over a significant period of time.
Speaking after the sentencing, Councillor Dudley Mead, deputy leader of the council, said:
This case is particularly appalling given that the defendant had not declared ownership or part-ownership of two properties, one of which was in France.

Benefit fraud is taking money from the hard-working taxpayer. We will always endeavour to catch those who cheat the benefits system, and seek the highest possible penalty in the courts, which for Mr Axford is a spell behind bars.

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