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29 Nov 2018

Light sentences for blatant benefit fraud

A middle class couple who own two homes worth £660,000 and drive a £25,000 convertible BMW raked in £80,000 in benefits while claiming one had a bad back.

Yvonne Unsworth, 46, and partner Warren Myers, 51, failed to tell the Department of Work and Pensions about their assets while pocketing benefits for employment support allowance and council tax allowance.

The couple, who live in a luxury £450,000 detached property in Whalley, Lancs, ran a photographic business and also owned another £210,000 house in nearby Chorley which they rented out, Burnley Crown Court was told.

Unsworth claimed £71,689 in employment support allowance for over six years after claiming she suffered from depression and a bad back.

Myers claimed £16,349 for acting as her carer while he was running his photographic studio and a further £6,072 in council tax benefit.

Prosecutor Robert Elias said: “This was a blatant fraud. Unsworth claimed over £71,000 over six years which she was not entitled to because she did not reveal that she owned a second property which was being rented out.”

Myers pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstance by receiving earnings above the prescribed limit which he knew would affect his carer’s allowance.

Mr Richard Prew, defending, said Unsworth claimed she couldn’t remember whether she had been asked if she owned other property.

He said the couple, who have a BMW convertible on their drive, had started to pay the money back and were in the process of selling their second house and hoped to raise between £30,000 and £50,000 to repay the DWP.

Recorder Tom Gilbart gave Unsworth a 12 month jail term suspended for 18 months and ordered that she do 25 days of rehabilitation.

She was also made the subject of a 7pm to 6am curfew with an electronic tag.

He told her: "You claimed employment support allowance on the basis that you were unfit to work because of depression and a bad back. You were required to give details about savings and property and the information you gave was quite wrong.”

The judge gave Myers a community order and ordered him to do 200 hours of unpaid work.

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