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12 Oct 2016

Nominal punishments for extended benefit fraud

A Heysham resident and her accomplice in the Costa del Sol who falsely claimed he was living with her in the UK in order to fraudulently claim a UK benefit have both been found guilty of benefit fraud. (h/t Dave)

British pensioner Antony McNamara falsely made a claim in 2011 for Pension Credit, a benefit non-UK residents are not eligible to receive.

Despite living and working in Benalmádena on the Costa del Sol at the time, on his claim he stated that he lived in a house at The Cliffs, Heysham with his “sister” Margaret Walsh and asked that his benefit be paid into her bank account as he did not have one. Over the next four years his alleged sister would transfer his benefit money from her bank account to his, allowing McNamara to continue enjoying his Spanish lifestyle at the expense of the British taxpayer.

In 2015 investigations carried out jointly by DWP fraud teams in the UK and Spain revealed that not only had McNamara been living and working in Spain for the past four years and owned 50% of a property there but also that his alleged “sister” was actually a woman with whom he had been in a relationship with many years previously and had a child with.

In June of this year the 70 year old pleaded guilty at Lancaster Magistrates Court to benefit fraud totalling £15,147.90 and was handed 12 weeks in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered to repay the money in full.

His fictional sister Margaret Walsh, 68, now of Maghull, Merseyside, admitted one offence of lying to the investigator when he called to speak to McNamara by saying that he had “just stepped out for a minute” but denied assisting him at the outset by letting the DWP think he was living with her. However, after a trial at Liverpool Magistrates Court, she was found guilty on all charges of assisting McNamara in obtaining benefit by deception and was sentenced to 10 weeks electronic tagging and a curfew.

DWP Fraud Investigator David Topping said: “We were tipped off anonymously about this and a lot of our cases come to us in that way".

He continued, illogically, "This case shows that people abroad who set out to defraud the benefit system in the UK by claiming benefits they are clearly not entitled to, will be tracked down and dealt with in the courts”.

If you suspect someone of committing or assisting someone to commit benefit fraud, call the free and confidential fraud hotline on 0800 854 440.

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