28 Jan 2015

£53k benefit fraud brings 100 hours of unpaid work

A Tavistock grandmother who conned councils out of more than £50,000 in benefits has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Elizabeth Hart, aged 66, repeatedly lied on claim forms to hide her ownership of a house, a court heard.

Hart, who moved around the country, falsely claimed £53,000 in housing benefit and council tax relief over more than five years. She pleaded guilty to five counts of fraud by false representation.

She dishonestly failed to declare while making claims that she owned a house in Spring Hill in the town.

Hart tricked West Devon Borough Council, North Cornwall District Council and Brighton and Hove Council in Sussex, the court heard.

Sarah Vince, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said a Proceeds of Crime Act application would be made to recover her ill-gotten gains.

Jo Martin, for Hart, said she would have to sell the house to meet the claim.

She added she had never lived in the Spring Hill house but had rather allowed her son and her grandchildren to live there. Because she never charged rent, her son in turn did not claim housing benefit.

Miss Martin said: “She certainly has not been living the high life. The sale of her house will be an additional punishment. She could go to prison for six to eight months or she could do useful work in the community.”

The court heard that she had struggled to cope after her 25-year-old son Troy committed suicide in 2004.

Recorder Robert Pawson handed her a six-month prison sentence but suspended it for two years. She must do 100 hours unpaid work and was ordered to take part in a women-specific course.


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