1 May 2015

Couple jailed for £78k benefits fraud

A Moreton couple who made illegal claims for almost £80,000 over a six year period have been handed jail sentences following a joint prosecution by Cotswold District Council and the Department of Work and Pensions.

Karen Hardiman, 46, and Roger Cross, 39, appeared at Gloucester Crown Court and admitted a total of 10 charges of benefit fraud from 2006 to 2013. Cross also asked for five further charges to be taken into consideration.

After hearing the evidence, the judge sentenced Hardiman to 16 weeks in jail and awarded a longer prison sentence of 26 weeks to Cross because he had previous convictions for burglary.

Hardiman had qualified for benefits legitimately when living as a lone parent, but the situation changed when Cross moved into her home in 2006 and they didn’t declare that her circumstances had changed. For his part, Cross worked as a gardener but did not declare his income.

The pair had pleaded guilty as soon as it came to light that they had been making illegal claims for housing and council tax benefit, income support, jobseeker's allowance and employment and support allowance worth a total of £78,774. Even though there were mental health issues to consider in both cases, the judge was convinced that they had both deliberately sought to defraud the state and were fully aware of their actions.

The judge acknowledged that the couple had not indulged in lavish holidays but pointed out that they had, nevertheless, falsely obtained the equivalent of an extra £17,000 per year, some of which was used to fund Cross’s drug habit.

The couple have agreed to repay some of the money through deductions to future benefits.

Commenting after the verdict, Cotswold District Council’s Director of Corporate Resources, Frank Wilson, said:
The benefits system is a safety net for people who are in need of financial support when they cannot make ends meet. That’s why it is always so galling to hear about people who knowingly try to get more than their fair share through deceitful means.

I am very grateful to the officer at the council who played a major role in uncovering this particular fraud and bringing the perpetrators to justice. This type of work is vital to help safeguard our public finances and ensure that benefits are awarded to those who really need them.


The Investigator said...

Did the council do underlying entitlement calculation as the law requires them to? Gardeners don't earn much and so the couple were likely to still be entitled to most if not all the allegedly overpaid HB and CTB. Amounts seem surprisingly high.

Anonymous said...

He may have been paid a decent wage?

ULE only reduces the overpayment, it doesnt excuse the fraud.