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7 Mar 2014

Benefit fraud tip off starts long legal process

Tracy Walker, 43, from Littleborough, who spent eight years falsely claiming over £60,000 in benefits, has been sentenced to 15 months in prison.

Manchester Crown Court heard how Walker lied about being single to secure Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit between June 2004 and October 2012.

A joint investigation by Rochdale Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions uncovered the deception following an anonymous tip that Walker had been living with her estranged husband, Nigel Walker.

Walker denied to investigators that she had rekindled a relationship with her husband, who was working and therefore meant she was not eligible for any benefits. However, she was adjudged to have claimed dishonestly and her benefits were withdrawn.

After losing two appeals, Walker pleaded not guilty to three charges of obtaining benefits by false representation at an initial hearing at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court in June 2013.

Walker then changed her plea to guilty at the start of the trial at Manchester Crown Court, and on 27 February 2014 she was sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to repay £61,500.

Councillor Jonathan Burns, Interim Portfolio Holder for Finance at Rochdale Borough Council, said:
The prison sentence reflects the seriousness of both the initial fraud and the subsequent attempt to escape justice. I hope this sends the message that benefit fraud will not be tolerated; we take it very seriously indeed and the consequences can be severe.

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