20 Feb 2015

False claim to be a single parent leads to suspended sentence

A woman who made false statements about her single parent status in a claim for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit was sentenced to six months custody, suspended for two years, at Hammersmith Magistrates Court after previously pleading guilty to five counts of dishonestly claiming Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. (h/t A Reader)

The court heard how when Erika Fletcher Sanchez first claimed benefit in 2004 she told the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea that she was a single mother. However, the Council questioned her relationship status when she had two further children in 2010 and 2011 with different surnames. Fletcher Sanchez made a number of written statements insisting that she still lived alone.

It was later discovered, as part of an investigation by the Council’s Corporate Investigation Group, that Fletcher Sanchez had in fact married Mr Fabian Andres Restrepo Bonilla in Colombia in September 2010. Upon their return to the UK, they had lived together at Longridge Road.

This prompted the Council to call Fletcher Sanchez in for an interview under caution in March 2014. During her interview Fletcher Sanchez exercised her right to make no comment but she did provide a written statement in which there was no mention of her husband.

Sentencing Fletcher Sanchez, the magistrates said that because of her early guilty plea they would not be sending her case to Crown Court, where her sentence could have been greater. They also said that while the fraud was committed over a long period and involved a large sum of money her claim had not been fraudulent from the outset but that Fletcher Sanchez had provided false explanations. However, they had seen her references and the pre-sentence report and noted she was of previous good character.

As a result of her making false statements in support of her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claim, Fletcher Sanchez received £22,783 in Housing Benefit, £2,023 in Council Tax Benefit and £978 in Council Tax reduction to which she was not entitled. This overpayment stretched from September 2010 (when she got married) to May 2014.

As well as the suspended custodial sentence a contribution to costs of £750 was awarded, along with a victim surcharge of £80 and unpaid work of 200 hours (the latter to be completed within 12 months).


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