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2 Jul 2018

Light benefit fraud penalty after long delay

A Rossett woman has escaped a jail term after being found guilty of two charges of benefit fraud at Wrexham Magistrates.

Laura Sharpe, 31, had initially entered a not guilty plea for failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of a change in her circumstances, in relation to income support and housing benefit payments, but was convicted at trial.

Rhian Jackson, prosecuting, said that Sharpe, a mother of two children had fraudulently claimed benefits of more than £10k between December 2014 and March 2016 despite clearly maintaining a common household with her partner, Gareth Dodd.

Ms Jackson said that surveillance of the property was conducted by DWP during February/March 2016 and Mr Dodd was identified by them on 38 separate occasions, both leaving and arriving at the property in either his work van or his silver BMW, which was registered with the DVLA under his name.

Ms Jackson explained there had been lots of evidence against Sharpe, who had been asked on numerous occasions by DWP to update them if her circumstances had changed.

Melissa Griffiths, defending, said that the charges had been hanging over Sharpe for some time, and despite her not guilty plea at trial, now accepted the verdict of the court that she had failed to disclose information to DWP.

On handing Sharpe a 12 month community order, Deputy District Judge Meirion Lewis-Jones said the evidence against Sharpe was overwhelming and as a result had come close to being subjected to prison, with her previous good record going in her favour.

He said: "Benefit fraud is becoming all too prevalent these days, which is depressing."

Part of the community order includes a 15 day rehabilitation requirement with Sharpe also ordered to pay a total of £485.

Source

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