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27 Mar 2014

Couple committed systematic benefit fraud

A man has been jailed for eight months for brazenly claiming more than £25,000 in benefits while running his own alarm company. The bulk of that money came from Kirklees Council.

Terence Edward Leach and his wife Elizabeth also had income coming in for part of the period from some sub-contracting work he was doing for another firm and from renting out a house. But the pair continued to claim huge amounts of benefits from Kirklees Council and other agencies, Leeds Crown Court heard.

And when investigators looked into their lifestyle, they uncovered Facebook photos of the pair enjoying holidays in the sun. They show the Leaches relaxing by a swimming pool and on a balcony in a sunkissed resort.

David Birrell, prosecuting for Kirklees Council, told the court that Leach applied initially for Jobseeker’s Allowance in February 2009 saying he was an unemployed house husband. About a week later he also applied for council tax benefit and housing benefit stating he had no income.

But when officials went to his then home in Bradford Road, Batley in 2011 when fraud was suspected there was a van outside advertising his firm Tez Alarms and inside the house bank statements and advertising leaflets for the business were also recovered.

“It is plain during the period concerned the company did about £50,000 worth of business” said Mr Birrell. One customer who was traced had received a letter from Tez Alarms in February that year signed by Elizabeth Leach. “The prosecution contend she was an active participant in this fraud,” he said.

The court heard the couple were renting the property in Batley and were receiving income of £500 a month from their own house rented out in Reevy Road West, Bradford without declaring that.

In addition they pretended Elizabeth Leach had some earnings as a cleaner by Leach creating false wage slips from a fictitious company to support her claim of a low income.

By the time the offences came to light he had been overpaid £17,132 in housing benefit, £3,099 in council tax benefit and £4,085 in Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Jeremy Coleman, for Terence Leach, said the house they owned in Bradford had since been repossessed as part of their general debt problems. He said the couple had not lived a luxurious lifestyle with villas abroad or driving luxury cars but committed the offences to try and get out of debt. “A father of four, if he was allowed to remain in the community he could become a gainful member of society,” said Mr Coleman.

Fraser Hunter, for Elizabeth Leach, said she had played a lower role due to naivety and had not been involved from the start.

Terence Leach, 39, of Oxford Road, Gomersal, admitted fraud and making articles in the use of fraud. Jailing him for eight months Judge Guy Kearl QC said he had persistently claimed benefits over a two and a half year period at a time when he had considerable income. “I take the view you wanted more money to sustain a lifestyle you couldn’t afford,” said the judge.

Elizabeth Leach, 40, who also admitted fraud, was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years with 100 hours unpaid work.

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