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6 May 2015

Jail for £12k benefit thief

A Bedford benefit cheat has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to fraudulently accepting money he was not entitled to.

Darren Sweeney, 49, received £12,183 in Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support after claiming benefits as a single man who had been signed off work sick.

However, Bedford Borough Council Investigators discovered Sweeney instead had a partner living with him, who was employed and providing financially for the upkeep of their home.

When questioned by Council Investigators, Sweeney admitted his partner had initially moved in with him following an operation he had on his knee.

Yet, by failing to declare this change in his circumstances to the Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, Sweeney continued receiving benefits that he was not entitled to.

Luton Magistrates considered a recommendation from the Probation Service that Sweeney be given a Community Punishment Order but decided the matter was so serious that immediate custody was warranted. Following the verdict, he was escorted from the courthouse and taken directly to prison.

A Council spokesperson said: “This sentence is welcomed by Bedford Borough Council and demonstrates the consequences awaiting those who are, or are thinking about, fraudulently obtaining benefits, discounts or services from the Council. We hope this case will serve as a deterrent to anyone thinking of committing fraud and will make them reconsider; with these strict punishments in place the question is whether it’s really worth the risk.”

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