14 Dec 2017

Astonishingly slow investigation of long term benefit fraud

A benefit cheat falsely claimed more than £55,000 while receiving money from her husband every month.

Sharon Calder was claiming several benefits despite receiving more than £1,000 a month from her husband and around £68,000 in inheritance.

Newport Crown Court heard Calder, 57, had falsely claimed £55,444.43 in benefits including income support, housing benefit, and council tax benefit from around 2009.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) first investigated the case in November 2012 after being made aware of her receiving around £68,000 in inheritance.

Barrister Jeffrey Jones, prosecuting, said that as of November 3 Calder had around £44,500 to pay back, and was currently repaying around £180 a month.

Mr Jones said that after obtaining her bank statements the DWP found the inheritance had been spent in “less than a week”.

The court heard that Calder was receiving £1,000 a month from her husband, which later increased to £1,500, and that the pair were living together.

It was also found that Calder had access to an Asda discount card through her husband, who was employed by the store.

Despite stating that a Subaru car – which was registered in her husband’s name and bought during the period Calder was claiming benefits – was not her responsibility, insurance documents showed that in 2010, 2011 and 2012 Calder was registered as the second-named driver with no medical conditions.

The court heard that Calder had several repeat prescriptions for conditions including back problems and that she received what was described as an “astonishingly vast amount” of paracetamol.

The court was also told that Calder had also appeared to have bought a caravan in Devon during the same period and that she and her husband went on holiday there in 2011 and 2015.

Rosamund Rutter, defending, said Calder previously worked as a care worker but due to a back injury had been out of employment since around 2004 and had no previous convictions.

Ms Rutter said: “She [Calder] regrets her behaviour and expressed remorse in her interviews.”

She added that in one interview with the probation service Calder said: “I have made a big mistake”.

Calder pleaded guilty to eight counts of benefit fraud and one count of fraudulent activity with tax credits after initially pleading not guilty.

Calder, from Llandaff North, Cardiff, was sentenced to 12 months in prison and was ordered to pay £1,200 in costs and a victim surcharge.

Sentencing, Judge Stephen Hopkins QC said: “You described yourself as a single woman with no income or savings. But the truth is you were being supported by your husband. To quote Sir Walter Scott: ‘Oh, what a tangled web we weave when we first practise to deceive’. To use the vernacular, you would not know the truth if it bit you on the nose.”


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