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29 Jun 2018

Man admits repeat benefit fraud

A Frome man who made a claim for benefits and kept pocketing the payment for two and a half years while he was earning money from his own courier business has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Stephen Joseph Ellis committed £15,000 worth of fraud when he didn’t tell the authorities what he was up to.

And it wasn’t until investigators from the Specialist Fraud Division became involved that they tracked his activities via his bank account.

At first he claimed the business belonged to his father, but when he appeared before Somerset Magistrates he confessed that the profits from the business were being paid into his bank account.

Ellis, 62, initially denied the offence but then changed his plea to guilty that on January 11, 2013 at Frome with a view to obtaining a benefit, namely Employment Support Allowance, he dishonestly made a statement or representation to the Department for Work and Pensions which was false, namely he stated he was not working or self-employed.

Emma Lenanton, prosecuting, said that the case arose following the defendant’s claim for Employment Support Allowance where he received an overpayment of £15,219.43 between October 2012 and March 2015.

“The claim was made and there was an application for it to be backdated,” she said. “However in making that claim Ellis failed to declare that he was receiving money from a family run business “NetExpress”. He accepts the claim was fraudulent at the outset and in instances like this a repayment schedule is usually devised.”

Miss Lenanton said the defendant had previous convictions for two offences of failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting benefit payments for which he was given a six week suspended prison sentence.

Defending solicitor Jeffrey Bannister said that Ellis accepted he did fill in the benefit application forms to say he was not working.

“He was ill and his parents wanted to help him so set up this business for him, however when he became ill his mother was doing most of the work on his behalf,” he said. “However it was his business and occasionally he got a bit better and tried to do some work. Eventually they were keeping the business afloat in the hope that in the future Ellis would get better and get back to work, however he was not doing this.”

He said that the business was still in operation and money had been put into his account, however he was not earning any money from it.

Since Ellis was interviewed by police all his benefits had been stopped, but he had been granted Disability Living Allowance for life because of his condition.

“The business had not been successful ever and it has now collapsed,” he added.

A Probation spokesperson said that Ellis took full responsibility for the offence saying that there was quite a substantial amount of money involved.

The magistrates imposed a 12 week suspended prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and also ordered him to pay £85 costs and a £115 victim surcharge.

Source

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