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3 Oct 2017

Proceeds of crime order for benefit fraud conwoman

A benefits cheat who conned grieving pet owners out of thousands of pounds has been ordered to pay back more than £75,000.

Emma Bent was jailed for eight months in 2011 after it emerged she had pocketed cash given to her to give dogs and cats a proper cremation, before dumping their bodies in a field. When she was found out, police calculated her earnings as £88,000 - but she claimed she only had £3,100, which she was ordered to pay to the court.

The 42-year-old, from Steep Turnpike, Derbyshire, was then jailed for two-and-a-half years in February 2016 for money laundering and benefit fraud after it was found she had lied about her assets in the original investigation.

Bent had wrongly claimed for housing and council tax benefit as well as income support.

Now, following a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Derby Crown Court, she has been told she has just three months to pay the £75,806.41 or face another jail term.

Judge Nirmal Shant QC said: 'It is right to say that previously £3,100 was the available amount to be paid back. But based on a statement it is now accepted that the information given was false. The benefit now declared is £75,806.41 and the available amount is the same figure. The compensation will be paid to the Department of Work and Pensions £33,449.48; Amber Valley Borough Council - 32,478.47; and Derbyshire Dales District Council - £9,878.46. You have three months to pay.'

At the February 2016 hearing, Derby Crown Court heard police found Bent had been lying about property she owned and how much she earned so she could pocket more than £90,000 in benefits between 2004 and 2012.

They found she had put properties in the name of her mother, Sonia Lomas, and some of her housing benefit was transferred into Lomas' bank account.

In court, Bent admitted fraudulently claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit; forging a rent book, a letter and a tenancy agreement; concealing criminal property and perverting the course of justice.

Sentencing Bent at the time, Judge Shant QC said: 'You are, or certainly have been in the past, a thoroughly dishonest young woman. For a long period of time you obtained benefits that you were not entitled to.'

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing this week said Bent owns land in Matlock, Derbyshire, as well as 75% of the house where she lives in Steep Turnpike. The other 25% is owned by her husband, Nigel Bent.

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