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18 Jul 2014

Confiscation order against benefit thief

A benefit fraudster has been ordered to pay back £35,000 or face a longer term in prison. (h/t Dave)

Stephanie Osbourne, 68, from Immingham, was convicted of benefit fraud on December 6, after pleading guilty to four charges of dishonestly obtaining pension credit and council tax benefit totalling £31,389.

This followed a lengthy joint investigation between North East Lincolnshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions. On January 17, she was sentenced to 20 weeks in prison.

She had already repaid the council the overpaid council tax benefit but her pension credit over-payment remained outstanding. As a result, the DWP's Financial Investigation Unit conducted an inquiry, culminating in a Confiscation Hearing at Grimsby Crown Court, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Prior to the hearing, Osbourne agreed to repay £35,000 and the court ordered that she will be required to pay the money within six months or face a further prison sentence of up to 15 months – and she will still have to repay the £35,000.

Christine Caine, DWP fraud investigation manager for the North East, said:
Benefit fraud is a crime and we are dedicated to catching those who commit it. Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this cost the taxpayer money that should be used to help those in need. We are determined to find those who we suspect are cheating the system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils. If you suspect someone of benefit fraud, please call the Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854440 so we can continue to tackle the problem in your area.
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