16 Jul 2014

What it takes to prosecute one £3,930 benefit fraud

This is how long it takes to prosecute one small benefit fraud. (h/t Dave) It's not even as if the council detected it - she came to the council's attention thanks to a tip-off.

Elisha Lopez filled in forms to say she was a single parent living alone at a property in Bury. The 36 year old mother of four also claimed her boyfriend moved out of the property when she moved in, entitling her to claim housing benefit on the basis that she was not earning enough in her role as a part-time nurse.

But in January 2013, a whistleblower alerted town-hall chiefs to the fact the Lopez had a second job running a cake-making business. They also alleged that Lopez’s boyfriend was living at her home.

The council investigated. They had to prove she was not single, so they recorded Lopez’s boyfriend leaving the property each morning and arriving in the evening.

"Claims were made", we are told, that the man lived with his mother near Lopez. So the council had to dig deeper. They found that two vehicles he owned were registered to Lopez’s home. They then looked at her Facebook account and saw she was listed as ‘in a relationship’ with the man and was also using the account to take cake-making orders for her business.

Police arrested Lopez in 2014 and, when appearing before Bury magistrates on July 9, she admitted committing benefit fraud over a 26-month period up to August 2013.

So the tip-off comes in January 2013, but the council aren't sure enough of their ground to stop her benefits until eight months later.

It then takes a further four months before she is arrested, and eleven months after her benefits were stopped the case comes to court.

After all this, she is sentenced to a 12-month Community Order with 130 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay costs of £928. She will also have to pay back the £3,930 in benefits that she wrongly claimed.

After the hearing, the council’s regulations representative Cllr Sandra Walmsley said:
Benefit fraud is not only wrong, but it’s unfair on the taxpayer and on genuine claimants. We will continue to take action against those who abuse the system.
But there aren't enough benefit fraud staff even to check all the claims - let alone prosecute more than a tiny fraction of the benefit fraud out there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Fraud staff only get involved when a claim is referred to them. I regularly process claims which I think are suspicious, I cant do anything else without proof.

As single parent fraud appears to be the easiest then more should be done when a child is born and more spot checks on live claims.

But my manager wants claims to be processed as quickly as possible because that is how we are judged.

I have always said that 'mystery shoppers'should make fraudulent claims and then see how many get paid. The results would be staggering!