21 Mar 2013

Under the stone

Two people have been sentenced to unpaid work for "succumbing to the temptation" of a benefit fraud scam.

Hannah Louise Parker and Ashley Adrian Charlton both paid to have their benefit cheques altered to higher amounts.

More than 25 people have admitted being involved in the scam, which involved paying an unidentified man to change the amounts on the cheques. It was centred around the Preston Road estate in east Hull.

They were caught when the Department for Work and Pensions' regional fraud unit teamed up with Humberside Police to launch Operation Languish, after investigators noticed a number of manipulated cheques.

Parker, 23, called police to confess she had done it when she heard other people had been arrested for the same crime.

Her solicitor, Gary Quantick, said: "When she heard about what was going on with the police on the estate, she called them to say she had done it on two occasions.

"She is dreadfully sorry for what she has done and is thoroughly ashamed to be in court."

Parker, of Marfleet Lane, admitted paying to have two crisis loan cheques increased in January and February last year.

The first was for £30, which was increased to £396.19. The other was increased from £7 to £397.10. She paid £50 on both occasions.

Prosecutor Jane Wilson said: "She said everyone on the estate where she lived was getting their cheques done. A male approached her and asked if she wanted it altering."

Parker, a single mother to a five-year-old boy, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud by false representation.

Mr Quantick said: "This was a very foolish offence.

"Her boyfriend was in and out of prison and money was tight.

"There was someone going around the estate approaching people in receipt of benefits and offering to take their cheques away and alter them.

"She succumbed to that temptation."

Charlton, 19, paid to have one Jobseeker's Allowance cheque changed from £7.64. It was later cashed at the East Park Post Office in Holderness Road for £370.11.

Miss Wilson said: "The operation discovered alterations had been made to the cheques, including one issued to Ashley Charlton.

"He named a person called Steve McCoid as cashing the cheque and denied receiving the cheque or signing it when he was interviewed by police."

Charlton, of Helmsley Grove, west Hull, admitted one charge of fraud by false representation when he appeared at Hull Magistrates' Court.

His solicitor, Ed Cunnah, said: "Someone has been going around this estate telling people they can make a little bit of extra money by handing over their giros.

"There are between 35 and 40 people involved in this case.

"Ashley Charlton is one of a few who only had one giro changed."

Mr Cunnah said Charlton received just £40 of the profit from the altered cheque.

Parker was given a 12-month community order, with 180 hours of unpaid work.

Charlton was also given a 12-month community order, with 80 hours of unpaid work.

Both must pay £100 costs.

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