7 Jan 2016

DWP in spectacular benefit fraud foul-up

A pensioner who conned taxpayers out of £41,000 in benefits over seven years has avoided being sent to jail.

Linda Larsen, 67, was sentenced to 200 hours' unpaid work after receiving housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support - despite having two jobs.

Salisbury Crown Court heard Larsen had deliberately stated she was unemployed on a number of forms between 2002 and 2009.

After failing to respond to a court summons in 2009 she remained undetected for the next five years despite receiving pension payments from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).

Judge Susan Evans QC slammed the authorities for not bringing her before court sooner, saying the DWP must have had her address. She described it as an "amateur failure of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing":
I am at a loss as to why this has not come to the court earlier. What efforts were made to apprehend you I cannot understand.
The DWP said it was aware Larsen was wanted for benefit fraud but had no lawful reason to stop paying her state pension.

Which, of course, is not the point.

The pensioner had initially been unemployed when she started claiming benefits from Salisbury District Council but she failed to tell the authorities after securing a job with the Unicorn Inn in Bayford and subsequently the Duchy of Somerset Estate.

Larsen said she claimed the money as she was struggling to pay her rent.

Her defence barrister said she had intended to pay back the money.

Judge Evans said she accepted that Larsen was "not living a lavish lifestyle" and, due to her previous good behaviour, suspended the eight-month prison sentence for two years.

She is also paying back £34,000 owed in housing benefits and income support through her pension.

Wiltshire Council has written off the money owed in council tax benefit.

Oh good


No comments: