27 Jan 2020

Benefit cheat pursued slowly for historical benefit fraud

A man who cheated Havering Council out of more than £30,000 through council tax and housing benefit fraud has been jailed.

David James Richards, 62, of no fixed abode was handed a seven month prison sentence at Westminster Magistrates' Court on January 21 after refusing to pay a court order of £18,388.90.

Richards, formerly of Abberton Walk, was originally successfully prosecuted in 2011 after investigations found he had claimed £33,757 from Havering Council, and £16,312 from the Department of Work and Pensions - a total loss to the public purse of £50,069.

The council's fraud investigators discovered Richards had flagrantly been living a life of luxury at the expense of local taxpayers.

Investigations found Richards was not only running a successful business with substantial assets, but he was the owner of seven vehicles, a luxury caravan and two speed boats - one of which was called Well Dodgey.

Despite a suspended sentence and a proceeds of crime order being issued - requiring Richards to pay back £41,550 - he still refused to pay the amount owed - even after it was reduced to £18,409.

District Judge Samuel Goozze told him: "You were given two months to sell your assets and pay in full. You have made no attempts to pay, being dilatory, not expediting matters, keeping assets hidden. You leave no option but to serve the seven month prison sentence."

Leader of the council, councillor Damian White, added: "After shamelessly abusing the benefits system at the expense of honest, hard-working, local taxpayers and then repeatedly dodging his responsibility to pay it back or accepting any kind of regret, I am pleased that this defendant has finally got his just deserts."

In addition to the seven month prison sentence, the courts will continue to pursue Richards for the unpaid debt plus interest.

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