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20 Jul 2017

Benefit claims continued after inheritance

A benefits cheat who claimed more than £40,000 she wasn’t entitled to has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Eileen Mary Chadwick, 61, had put a joint application for herself and her husband to receive hundreds of pounds per month in benefits.

Those claims included income support, Employment and Support Allowance and housing benefit.

The fraudulent claims, which spanned a period of four years and eight months, saw Chadwick, from Bacup, receive £43,730 she wasn’t entitles to, according to prosecutors. The defence said that figure was closer to £34,000.

Prosecutor Mark Stephenson said the claims, which date back to August 2011, did not start off as fraudulent but Chadwick and her husband’s financial circumstances changed when his mother died and he inherited a joint share in her house. The court heard Mr Chadwick inherited the property in February 2011 and a tenant moved in the following August, paying rent of £250 per month. That was jointly split between Mr Chadwick and his brother.

The prosecution said Chadwick failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions and Rossendale Council about the change, which would have affected the couple’s entitlement to benefits.

Mr Stephenson said: “It is right to say all of these claims in the first instance were made properly and there was no deception. The total sum overpaid was £43,730.64. One thing we can be sure of is the sum of overpayment of the housing benefit is £17,300. That would not be paid if they had a house which they owned. This is not a straightforward case. The house was not strictly owned by the defendant. It was owned by her husband and her husband’s brother. This defendant is solely here today because the joint application was made in her name and not his. This is an unusual case but we can only prosecute the person who made the application.”

Chadwick, who is still unemployed and unable to work because of severe arthritis, pleaded guilty to three counts of dishonestly failing to promptly notify a change in circumstances.

Defending, Mark Stuart said once his client had failed to notify the authorities of the change in circumstances it became more difficult to admit the deception as time went on. He said: “I accept, on the defendant’s behalf, the criminality is she failed to declare when her husband started to get rental income from that particular property. She ought to have done so. Effectively they received £7,500 rental income which should have been declared."

Judge Andrew Blake sentenced Chadwick to nine months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered her to pay the statutory victim surcharge. She will face a Proceeds of Crime hearing later this year.

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