A woman who fraudulently claimed more than £11,000 in housing benefits concealed the fact that she was the owner of a property. (h/t Dave)
Appearing before Croydon magistrates, Sarah Wood, formerly of Calley Down Crescent, New Addington, pleaded guilty to a charge of fraud and was sentenced to 26 weeks’ jail, suspended for 12 months.
The court heard that the 52-year-old, currently living in Great Yarmouth, failed to notify Croydon Council’s benefits department, when making a claim for housing benefit, that she owned a house in Windham Avenue, New Addington, that had been given to her by her late father in August 2007.
In September 2010, she completed a claim form for housing benefit and council tax, stating that she did not “own any property in the UK or abroad”. She then signed a declaration confirming that the information she had provided was correct and complete.
Between September 2010 and October 2013, she received a total overpayment amounting to £11,553.84, the deception coming to light when the council’s corporate anti-fraud team received an anonymous tip-off.
Subsequent investigations at the Land Registry revealed that she had owned the Windham Avenue property for more than five years before selling it in January 2013.
Councillor Alison Butler, cabinet member for homes, regeneration and planning, said: “Housing benefit is there to help those in need provide a home for themselves and their families. It’s the council’s duty to protect much-needed resources and ensure that they go to residents who quite rightly require them. This case should be a wake-up call to anybody who’s defrauding, or contemplating defrauding, the council.
“They may get away with it for a little while but, sooner or later, their criminal behaviour will be found out, and we will prosecute them. In this case, our investigations team, reacting to a tip-off, pursued the matter, brought it to light and then – to her substantial cost – took the matter to court where she was given a stain on her character in the form of a criminal record.”
Piffle, Councillor Butler! You only followed up a tip-off.