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18 Jan 2016

No redeeming features

A cheating couple fiddled more than £120,000 in benefits to fund a lavish lifestyle – including a luxury holiday to Las Vegas.

Phillip Jones, 41, was jailed for using a series of bogus names to abuse the benefits system with girlfriend Sharon James, 38.

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard how Jones bought properties and splashed out on holidays including a trip to Las Vegas to watch a boxing match – paid for by him fiddling benefits for housing, council tax and disability.

Jones bought the houses and then claimed for benefits using fake names and details at those addresses.

Prosecutor Lee Reynolds told Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court that that the scam was a “myriad false claims and fictitious documents”. He said: “They engaged in a determined, sophisticated and lucrative series of benefit fraud over a significant period of time.”

Jones, of Merthyr Tydfil, admitted seven counts of benefit fraud and one of conspiracy to defraud amounting to £91,731.50 and was jailed for two years.

The court was told how Jones witnessed tenancy agreements in false names to secure benefit after benefit for year after year.

He made claims for incapacity benefit and housing and council tax benefits under an alias, pretending he was a factory worker who was unable to work.

Jones changed his name to Paul Jones and submitted further benefit claims at a property he owned at Church Street, Troedyrhiw, and later at Pant Cad Ifor cottages, another property he had owned.

He bought another property for £105,000 under the name of Paul Price at Dan y Parc View, Merthyr Tydfil, claiming he was a self employed builder earning £35,000 a year. He was able to put down a £25,000 deposit from savings and two years later in 2006 paid off the £78,000 mortgage in full whilst claiming benefits at another of his addresses under a different name.

By 2008 James and Jones were in a relationship and Mr Reynolds said: “It is accepted that she was recruited into an already accomplished benefit fraud.”

Jones then bought another property at Cardiff Road, Merthyr Tydfil, for cash in the sum of £28,500 and submitted a benefits claim the same day using false documents.

In 2011, authorities carried out surveillance on Jones and mother-of-two James, both of Dan y Parc View, and when their home was raided evidence of their lavish lifestyle emerged.

Judge Daniel Williams said: “This was brazen dishonesty born out of greed rather than need. It funded a lifestyle which others who honestly work and work hard could only dream of. Year after year after year you helped yourselves to public funds expecting tax payers to fund your holidays and property acquisitions.”

James, also of Merthyr Tydfil, admitted conspiracy to defraud £30,515.67 and was handed a six-month suspended sentence.

The judge told her: “You were contemptuous of the benefit system and those who work hard to contribute to funds. The two of you showed a breathtaking dishonesty in your dealings with the benefit system. For year after year you raided scarce public funds.”

Andrew Davies, defending Jones, who had made no attempt to pay back any money, said that he had turned to drink following a difficult upbringing but had showed remorse.

Jeffrey Jones, defending James, who had repaid £322, said: “She has lost a lot of the esteem and character that she had enjoyed. She was not the brains behind this.”

The couple will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing to determine how much of the money will be paid back.

Source

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