12 Jun 2013

Reigate couple jailed for benefit fraud

A Reigate couple have been jailed for a total of 18 months after they were convicted of falsely claiming more than £75,000 in benefits.

John Ronald Cattrall, 43, and Julia Jones, 41, were sentenced at Guildford Crown Court after a jury found them guilty of a total of nine charges. Cattrall was sentenced to 12 months and Jones to 6 months.

Under the fraud, which dates back to August 2000 and lasted for almost 11 years, they claimed £49,031 in housing benefit and £12,246 in council tax benefit that they were not entitled to, plus £14,093 in income support from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

The fraud was uncovered by the council’s corporate anti-fraud investigators, working in partnership with the DWP and Surrey Police. They revealed the couple had been living together as husband and wife since August 2000, contrary to their declarations on their benefit claims.

The couple were arrested at their home by Surrey Police on July 14 2011 and evidence was recovered. They were then interviewed by council investigators whilst in custody at Reigate Police Station. After pleading not guilty at an earlier hearing, the case progressed to a trial, which ran from April 22 to May 6.

That's nearly two years later.

Following sentencing, Councillor Julian Ellacott, executive member for housing and welfare at the council, said:
We work hard to prevent, detect and investigate all types of fraud against the council. Housing and council tax benefit is there for people who really need it and we will not tolerate those who abuse the system.

The court has seen all of the relevant evidence and found Mr Cattrall and Miss Jones guilty, and handed down a custodial sentence which highlights the serious nature of these crimes. I hope this serves as a warning to others that cheating the system does not pay.”
Separate to the court action, the council is pursuing repayment of the full overpaid benefits of £103,000 from the pair for their whole claim period, 1997 to 2011. The council will also be seeking payment of its legal costs from them at a subsequent hearing.

A confiscation order should be made at the same court hearing, rather than causing taxpayers extra expense and even more delay.

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