25 Mar 2014

Not much punishment for substantial benefit fraud

A benefit fraudster from South Tyneside pretended her partner was her landlord so they could get benefits they were not entitled to. (h/t Dave)

Claire Wilson convinced the authorities Kevin Hunter was renting his home at Kingsley Avenue, South Shields, to her and her two children as a business arrangement. But Newcastle Crown Court heard the couple were living together as a family during the £33,000 benefit scam between 2009 and 2012.

The pair were collared when investigators put them under surveillance.

Wilson, 38, admitted more than £33,000 in benefit fraud and being knowingly concerned in fraudulent activity.

Hunter, 31, admitted aiding and abetting a false statement to obtain benefit in relation to fraudulent documentation, including a rent book, which had been used to obtain the housing and council tax relief, worth almost £18,000 of the total figure .

The court heard Wilson was paid £33,615 income support, housing benefit, council tax relief and child tax credits on the basis she was a single mother. She had provided a fake tenancy agreement and rent book to support her claim that Hunter was her landlord.

Sue Hirst, prosecuting, told the court: “She made no mention of the fact she was living with Kevin Hunter and he was in paid employment, which would have obviously affected their entitlement. There was surveillance carried out on the property on various dates between March and May 2012 when Mr Hunter was seen coming and going at various times of the day.”

The court heard two cars and two motorbikes belonging to Hunter were kept parked outside the address and some bills had been paid by him.

Judge Penny Moreland sentenced Wilson to six months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision and 50 hours’ unpaid work. The judge told her: “Given you are responsible for two small children, I am prepared to suspend the sentence.”

Hunter was sentenced to four months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, with supervision and 50 hours’ unpaid work. The judge said: “I am prepared to suspend the sentence so you can remain in employment and begin to pay the money back.”

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