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28 May 2013

Light sentence for £55k Stoke benefit thief after slow investigation

Benefit fraudster Ralph Longson claimed more than £55,000 in handouts he was not entitled to over a six-year period. (h/t Fraudbloke)

The 42-year-old became the latest cheat to be caught after Stoke-on-Trent City Council received a tip-off from a member of the public.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Longson first made a claim to the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) for incapacity benefit in 2004.

He later claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

He stated on the claim forms that he was not in work and lived alone and added he would inform the authorities of any change in his circumstances.

However, he was earning cash working at a sports and social club.

Trevor Vernon, prosecuting, said: "In 2010 the local authority received information the defendant may have failed to inform that he was in paid employment and his partner was living with him."

In interview, Longson admitted he was in paid work at London Road Social Club, Stoke, and that his partner had moved in with him and was in paid work.

Longson, from Trent Vale, pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly making a false statement and four charges of dishonestly failing to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances affecting his entitlement to benefits.

The court heard Longson was overpaid a total of £55,760.46 between September, 2004 and July, 2011. He has started repaying the money with £54,766.66 now outstanding.

The tip-off came in 2010. Payments continued until July 2011.

At £1,000 a year he will be 96 before he repays us - without any interest.

Peter McCartney, mitigating, said Longson did not use the handouts to live a luxurious lifestyle.

He said: "He should not have done what he did. He acknowledges that."

But he added Longson may have been entitled to working tax credits because his wages were low.

Judge David Fletcher sentenced Longson to a 12-month community order with supervision and to attend six sessions of benefit fraud structured intervention sessions.

He will also be subject to a 12-week electronically-monitored curfew from 8pm to 6am.

Judge Fletcher told Longson: "You deprived the public purse of a considerable amount of money."

After the hearing, Councillor Terry Crowe, the city council's cabinet member for finance, procurement and commissioning, told The Sentinel benefit fraud would not be tolerated:
We take a zero tolerance approach to people who are effectively stealing from the public purse.

At a time when the country is facing extreme and prolonged financial challenges, we will not stand for anyone committing benefit fraud.

The city council has a dedicated and very successful fraud team, which is committed to finding people who are guilty of cheating the system and bringing them to justice.

This is an issue that the public is extremely passionate about.
Overall Stoke Council are one of the leaders in pursuing fraud (click the label below for more), but in this case the people of Stoke have been let down.

They received the tip-off in 2010 but kept paying out until July 2011. From there it took nearly two years for the case to reach court - where he pleaded guilty.

Then the Judge gave him a light sentence.

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