31 Mar 2017

Woman convicted of social housing frauds

A woman who lied about living at her mother's council house so she could inherit it after her mum died has been convicted at court.

The case against Cara Wood, from Paignton, was brought by Plymouth City Council's Corporate Fraud team on behalf of Teignbridge Council.

Wood appeared at Plymouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday, where she was convicted of making a false claim on 9 October 2014 to Teign Housing by stating that she lived at 39 Furlong Close, Buckfast for at least 12 months with a view to gaining a succession right to the property following her mother's death.

On further investigation, the electoral roll and council tax records of Teignbridge Council showed Cara Wood's mother, Deborah Lawton, as living alone at the property during the period Wood referred to, and Wood actually living above a wine bar at 14 North Street, Ashburton at the time of her mother's death. The court heard Wood had not lived at the Furlong Close address for at least five years.

Wood was also convicted of making a dishonest false statement with a view to gain for herself by indicating that she had held a social tenancy for at least three years to qualify for the Right to Buy a social housing property at 29 Westabrook in Ashburton by stating that she had held a social housing property between August 2008 and June 2015.

Had Wood been successful in her Right To Buy application, she would have saved herself £57,750 on buying the property. The court was told she withdrew her application after an interview under caution.

Wood received a five month prison sentence for each offence to run consecutively, suspended for 12 months. She was also ordered to complete 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £450 and a victim surcharge of £85.

In mitigation, the court heard that Wood had been pressured by family members to apply so her sister and her family could obtain the property. Wood said she did it to stop her sister and children from becoming homeless.

Councillor Ian Darcy, cabinet member for finance for Plymouth City Council said: "This case sends a clear message that we will not tolerate any fraud in Plymouth, and in particular housing fraud, at a time when there is a large waiting list for social housing. The conviction was for an offence that is contrary to the Fraud Act 2006. Social housing properties are at a premium in the UK and a scarce asset. Social housing cheats deprive those in genuine need of one of the most basic needs in life – somewhere to live."

The Corporate Fraud Team operate as the South West Anti-Fraud Service and cover the whole region. They said they have already had a number of successes for other local authorities across Devon as well as Plymouth City Council.


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