A benefits cheat who stole almost £50,000 in a six-year fraud has been ordered to do 200 hours of unpaid work. (h/t Dave)
David Eagle, 49, fraudulently claimed housing and council tax benefits worth £26,019.90 between January 26, 2009, and March 22 last year.
He also fraudulently claimed £21,629.43 in Jobseeker's Allowance between January 24, 2009, and March 18 last year, pocketing a total of £47,649.33 from his crimes.
Eagle failed to tell the authorities he was living with his wife.
Although they had briefly separated when he was making his applications, she was in full-time work and helped him complete the forms, Hull Crown Court heard.
The benefits, which once totalled £8,000 a year, were paid into their joint bank account, from which private health plans, vehicle insurance, and other payments were made.
Eagle knew he was breaking the law, but never reported the change in his circumstances because he "got used to the money".
Victoria Hajba, prosecuting, said: "The defendant did admit in interview that he should have disclosed a change of circumstances. "He accepted he had many opportunities and he was fully aware he was claiming benefits he was not entitled to, and he accepted from the outset he was dishonest. Throughout the period, he had the intention of notifying the relevant authorities, but he never got round to doing so as he got used to the money."
Eagle was not funding a luxury lifestyle, but using the money to keep "afloat" as the couple had debts and were both supporting children from previous marriages, the court heard.
Hang on, they had private health plans.
Paul Norton, defending, said: "The couple did have significant debts and the money fraudulently obtained was used very much to service those debts and to keep themselves afloat. Both Mr Eagle and his wife, and indeed other members of his family present in court, do feel very keenly the disgrace of a conviction for an offence of dishonesty. For most of his life he did work and his wife remains a hard-working taxpayer."
Eagle, from Withernsea, admitted two counts of fraudulently obtaining benefits.
He had made an "arrangement" to pay the money back at £100 a month, and had so far returned £400.
"That's going to take time," said Judge Paul Watson QC. "It's going to take a long time, yes," said Miss Hajba.
Sentencing Eagle, the judge told him: "I know you and your wife had considerable financial debts. You had incurred a substantial number of debts and took out loans to pay off debts, and we know what a vicious circle and downward spiral that creates. A seriously aggravating feature of this case is that the fraud went on for so many years. I am satisfied this is not a case in which you claimed amounts of money that led to you living a life of luxury. You and your wife were getting by."
Eagle let out a sigh of relief when the judge said he would not have to serve an immediate sentence of imprisonment. He was sentenced to 14 months in jail, suspended for 18 months, and must do 200 hours of unpaid work.
"I'm quite satisfied you won't appear before the crown court again," the judge told him.
Compare the sentence in tomorrow's post.