9 May 2014

Suspended sentence for £140k benefit thieves

A couple have received suspended sentences after pleading guilty to falsely claiming more than £140,000 in benefits.

Raymond and Georgina Wood, who are aged 79 and 75, of Lincolnshire, recently pleaded guilty to a total of 23 offences at Basildon Crown Court, and were given a 12 month custodial sentence suspended for two years.

The charges included dishonestly making false statements in order to obtain benefits, failing to notify changes of circumstances, retaining wrongful credits and fraud.

Georgina Wood falsely claimed income support and pension credit from the Department for Work and Pensions, and council tax benefit from Brentwood Borough Council, Basildon Borough Council and South Kesteven District Council.

Raymond Wood falsely claimed income support and pension credit from the DWP, as well as housing benefit from Basildon Borough Council.

Both had failed to declare they were living together and that Mrs Wood had more than £16,000 in undeclared capital. Mrs Wood also failed to notify authorities that she owned a property in Brentwood and Basildon.

The offences took place between July 2003 and February 2013 for Mr Wood. Mrs Wood’s offences occurred between May 1998 and January 2013. The overpayments totalled around £140,000.

In sentencing, the Judge stressed that he took benefit fraud seriously due to its effect on public funds and that it made it more difficult for people legitimately claiming benefits.

He gave Mr Wood limited credit for his guilty pleas and Mrs Wood credit for her early guilty pleas. He also took into account their age and good character and Mr Wood’s his poor health.

Good character? They stole undetected for over ten years!

A timetable was agreed for the confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Rick Steels, Brentwood Borough Council’s Revenues and Benefits Manager, said: “This was a complex case involving different locations over a number of years. It also showed the effective joint working between Brentwood, Basildon and South Kesteven Councils and the DWP. The council is determined to crack down on fraudulent claims, particularly as they are unfair to hardworking taxpayers and those who genuinely need the benefits system to work for them. Benefit fraud is illegal and those who cheat the system will be prosecuted and will have to pay back what they have stolen.”

It looks as if they won't suffer any convenience through their punishment and will just have to give back what they stole. Is that justice?

Benefit thieves should have to pay back twice what they stole.

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