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26 Mar 2020

Landlord fraudulently claimed benefits

A private housing landlord who had almost £124,000 in the bank, fraudulently claimed council tax benefits to fund a "lavish lifestyle," a court has heard.

Manju Prince made two false council tax reduction claims and a false application for council tax relief between March 13, 2017 and October 25, 2018.

Magistrates sitting at Nottingham Magistrates Court heard that Prince knowingly provided Bassetlaw District Council with false information about her personal circumstances and finances on three occasions.

Council Tax Reduction is a means tested discount to help people on a low income.

The court heard Prince signed declaration forms that stated she had no savings or income from other properties.

Evidence submitted by the council showed that at the time of the claims, Prince and her husband had a total of 19 bank accounts with a total balance of £123,593.63.

The council also produced Land Registry documents showing that Prince owns two rental properties. These were tenanted and paying rent into her accounts.

The council's legal representative told the court the 44-year-old had embarked on a sophisticated and planned attempt to commit fraud, the proceeds of which would be used to fund a lavish lifestyle.

Prince admitted to making two false council tax reduction claims and a false application for council tax relief between March 13, 2017 and October 25, 2018.

She was handed a 40-week jail sentence, suspended for 18 months and ordered to pay £9,250.19 in court costs.

Prince is also required to attend 15 rehabilitation activity requirements and engage with probation.

Cllr Kevin Dukes, cabinet member for corporate services said: “Ms Prince knowingly and willfully provided the council with false statements and information in an attempt to reduce her council tax bill.

“Council tax reduction is provided to families and individuals who are most in need and are on low incomes. This fund is limited and by making a false claim Ms Prince could have deprived a family or individual who are genuinely in need of an essential discount.

“The tough sentence handed down by the Magistrates in this case shows that neither the Council nor the Courts take fraud lightly and will impose severe penalties to people who attempt to cheat the system and deprive residents who are most in need.

“Let this be a clear message to anyone who is considering or currently committing fraud against the Council. We will investigate you and we will take action.”

In mitigation, Ms Prince said she was now separated from her husband, who lived in London during the week and only visited the marital home on weekends.

She said she was suffering from anxiety and depression, in addition to other mental health issues.

These issues began when Mr Prince was involved in an accident in 2016, which left him with a brain injury and required her to leave a well-paid job in order to care for her husband.

She claimed she is now of limited financial means.

Ms Prince also claimed that the money held in the bank accounts was tied to the rental properties she owns and also includes money to repay a substantial family loan.

However, no evidence was submitted to the court to substantiate these claims.

This matter was first brought before the court in October 2019, where Ms Prince denied the offences and entered not guilty pleas.

The case was adjourned until January 29, 2020, when Ms Prince entered a late guilty plea to both offences that were contrary to Section 1 of the Fraud Act 2006.

Source

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