Showing posts with label single person benefit fraud. Show all posts
Showing posts with label single person benefit fraud. Show all posts

20 Dec 2019

Thee role of fake singletons in total benefit fraud

Phantom singletons are set to cost taxpayers more than £10 million-per-week in overpayments, shock figures show.

Ghost claims will balloon to an estimated £580 million within two years for couples who claim to be living apart – but have set up with a partner.

But the bogus singles were last year paid £95 million in Universal Credit, £55 million in housing benefit and £6 million in Jobseeker’s Allowance.

There were also payments for £25 million in Employment and Support Allowance and a further £18 million in Pension Credit, government figures show.

Couples who claim to live in separate homes, often pretending their relationship has broken down, can rake in thousands of pounds in fraudulent payments.

It is due to cost taxpayers £350 million this year.

Duncan Simpson, research director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “These highlight absurdities in the welfare system. Some people will always be looking good to game the system, and that is made far easier when the referee makes the rules so unnecessarily complex. The government needs to prevent cheating but they can make that far easier by simplifying the benefits bill.”

Recent examples of this fraud that have come to court include mum-of-two Debbie Bowler.

She was paid £30,000 in benefits but was found to have flown off on holiday with the children’s dad for a month-long trip in Australia. Bowler, 41, of Colne, Lancs, had told the authorities that she lived alone but later admitted her partner stayed in the home three nights a week, although they slept apart. She admitted fraud and was ordered to do community service and pay back the cash.

Diana Young, 59, fraudulently claimed almost £30,000 in benefits by saying she lived alone in a home in Hull. However, she was unwittingly unmasked herself when she and her partner put in a joint application for tax credits. She admitted fraud and was given a suspended jail sentence.

Many of the bogus payouts are believed to start life as genuine claims, but then as a person’s personal circumstances change and a partner moves in, they fail to notify the authorities.

The most recent estimates suggest that £2.3billion in benefits was fraudulently claimed in the last year – more than £6million every day.

On top of this another £1.8billion was paid out in error – meaning fraud and error accounted for £4.1billion of last year’s total £184billion benefit bill.

A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “Nearly 97 per cent of benefits are paid correctly so fraud and error is low. We work hard to sort out fraud and error overpayments, recovering more than a billion pounds last year.”


2 Jul 2019

Benefit cheat makes her crime pay

A grandmother who falsely claimed more than £43,000 in benefits and went on holiday has been ordered to pay back a fraction of that sum. (h/t Dave)

Geraldine Thomas was given a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, in July last year and was back in court on Friday for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

At her sentencing hearing , Recorder Patrick Harrington QC noted the money was spent on “an expensive holiday”.

The court heard she fraudulently claimed more than £43,000 in benefits over a five-year period.

Prosecutors said she failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Caerphilly council of a change in her circumstances between 2011 and 2016.

She claimed Income Support, Employment and Support Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction on the basis she was living alone.

But she was actually living with her partner, Raymond Adams, who was contributing to the household income.

During the sentencing hearing at Newport Crown Court , the court was told she used the money to fund a number of holidays to destinations such as Egypt for her and her partner.

The DWP and Gwent Police launched an investigation, monitoring Thomas and Mr Adams over a number of years.

They used a “search and seizure” order to enter the defendant’s home and gain evidence.

Thomas, 55, from Bargoed, admitted three counts of benefit fraud.

Kathryn Lane, defending, said her client – a grandmother-of-two – had never been before the courts before.

She said: “[Thomas] foolishly engaged in this offending and is thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed by it. She is a valued and routinely relied and depended-upon family member and a valued member of the community. There have been a number of bereavements of close family members recently which has had an effect on her and she has been picking up the pieces of those closest to her.”

Recorder Harrington said: “No mention has been made of your lifestyle and I know what the money has been spent on. It was spent on an expensive holiday wasn’t it?

“Benefit fraud is rife and costs honest hardworking people a lot of money.”

During the Proceeds of Crime Act hearing at Cardiff Crown Court , it was found she wrongly gained £43,015.10 from her offending.

She had £6,500 available and was ordered to pay that amount within three months, or risk going to prison for three months.

Source with pictures

2 Apr 2019

Light sentence for sustained benefit fraud

A woman was taking several holidays a year to the Canaries while claiming tens of thousands of pounds in benefits she was not entitled to, a court has heard. (h/t Tenancy Fraud)

For almost six years Helen Jayne Williams claimed benefits as a single woman - despite being married, living with her husband, having a joint bank account, and going on exotic holidays with her husband.

Swansea Crown Court heard that when the authorities eventually caught up with her, she claimed to be in a abusive and controlling relationship - claims which were investigated and found to be groundless.

The 52-year-old is repaying the money she wrongly claimed at £103 per month, a rate which means it will be more than 50 years before all the cash is recouped.

Tom Scapens, prosecuting, said Helen Morgan - as she was then - initially made legitimate claims for income support, housing benefit, and council tax benefit in 2002 on the basis she was was single, had no savings, and was unable to work.

She married David Williams in May 2010 but did not notify the authorities of the change of circumstances - something the court heard all claimants are required to do.

The following year Mr Williams began working.

Mr Scapens said each year the defendant was sent a reminder that she should update the authorities as to any changes which may affect her benefit claims - something she did not do.

The court heard while Williams was still claiming single person's benefits she was in fact living with her husband in the Brynhyfryd area of Swansea , the couple were using joint bank accounts, and would holiday together in the Canary Islands "several times a year".

By the time the scam came to light in February 2017 Williams had claimed a total of £66,701.66 in benefits to which she was not entitled.

The prosecutor said during her subsequent interviews the defendant initially told investigators Mr Williams was only living at the address a couple a nights a week in his role as a carer, before claiming in a defence statement that she was in fact the victim of domestic abuse and her partner was controlling her.

Williams had previously pleaded guilty to three counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances and one count of fraud when she appeared in the dock for sentencing.

She has no previous convictions.

Stephen Thomas, for Williams, said the defendant suffered from "significant health issues", and was also a carer for her parents.

He said Williams was "throughly ashamed of herself", and had brought shame on her family.

The advocate described the prosecution as a "salutary lesson" for the defendant.

Solicitor stole almost £1m from families and friends of dead clients

Judge Peter Heywood said £66,000 was a significant amount of money to take at a time when the public purse was under pressure.

He told Williams she was guilty of "deliberate fraudulent activity" and the only real question before him was whether he should send her straight to prison or suspend any term on custody.

The judge said given the poor state of the defendant's health, and her role as a carer for her ill parents, he was prepared to pass a suspended sentence - though he said he did so "with a degree of hesitation".

For each of the four offences Williams was sentenced to nine months in prison, all the sentences to run concurrently with one another and suspended for two years.

Williams will continue to repay money she owes at the rate of £103 per month.

She stole £66,000 over several years. Has she been punished at all?

23 Jan 2019

Long delay in benefit fraud prosecution

Benefit cheat Mark Weston claimed more than £54,000 he wasn't entitled to - before investigators used Facebook to rumble him.

The 58-year-old had received council tax discounts, housing benefit and income support on the basis he was living alone.

But for part of that time, Weston had in fact been sharing his home in Cobridge with his wife.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard investigators found she had been using the address for correspondence, listed Weston as next of kin, and had been posting about the defendant on Facebook - including a birthday and anniversary greeting.

Now Weston has been handed a suspended prison sentence and hit with a curfew.

Richard McConaghy, prosecuting, said the defendant had received more than £16,000 from Stoke-on-Trent City Council for council tax and housing benefit, with the majority - just over £37,000 coming from the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Mr McConaghy said: "In September 2013 the defendant completed a document and he failed to update any information about his household - particularly the presence of his wife.

"In late 2016 the DWP received an allegation about his circumstances and commenced their investigation.

"An early morning drive-by revealed a car registered to the defendant's wife was at the address and on the drive. Inquiries were made with various organisations including Stoke-on-Trent City Council who were the victims of two counts. His wife had provided it as her home address and he was her next of kin. Further inquiries were made that she she was using the address for a considerable period of time."

The investigators also used Facebook to prove that Weston was cheating the public purse.

The prosecutor said: "Her Facebook page was looked at and showed multiple references to the defendant where she wished him a happy birthday and wished him a happy anniversary and spoke of 24 years. She also wished him a happy 50th birthday and referred to him as her 'hubby'.

"He was interviewed in February 2017, over what had happened and he initially denied she had moved back in with him. He spoke of a fall he had suffered and said she was staying two to three nights a week to help him recover. He was shown documentary evidence showing she had used the address and he admitted she moved back in to the home in May 2012. He accepted he had been dishonest. He was not charged until the latter part of 2018."

Weston, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances in relation to council tax benefit, housing benefit and income support.

Neil Gerrity, defending, said Weston is in poor health and is suffering a high heart rate. He said: "He is still in receipt of benefit and is having a reduction from them. He is now living on his own and his wife has moved out."

Judge Paul Glenn sentenced Weston to a 14-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months. He will also have a nine-month electronically monitored curfew between 9pm and 5am.

The Judge commented that
The length of time is aggravating but the delay in this case is unexplainable and that constitutes some form of punishment.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are catching those who cheat the system and divert taxpayers' money from the people who need it. We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”


If the DWP were serious about catching as many benefit cheats as possible, it would not tolerate these delays.

22 Jan 2019

Suspended sentence for £46k benefit fraud

A benefits cheat swindled over £46,000 of housing handouts — while boasting of her Spanish property business on Facebook.

Louise Jones, 50, was claiming UK disability benefits for nearly a decade despite living in Spain.

She was also claiming housing benefits for a property in Victoria Dock, Hull, alongside one in nearby Cleethorpes. Both were owned by her husband, Bruce McHardy — but the couple were at that time living near Alicante, in Spain.

In total, Jones illegally claimed a staggering £46,000 between 2007 and 2016.

But Exeter Crown Court heard how Jones caught herself out after she posted pictures of her wedding to Mr McHardy, a property developer, on social media.

With photos on her Facebook page of her engagement to Mr McHardy in 2015 and her wedding in July 2017, she also described herself as managing director of his Spanish property business, McHardy Spanish Properties.

Jones' Linkedin page also listed her as the managing director of another property venture, Blanca Sales and Rentals.

She admitted eight counts of benefit fraud and was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, by Judge Peter Johnson. He also set a timetable for the seizure of any remaining assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard that Jones was in a "controlling" relationship and that the couple's marriage was short-lived, with Mr McHardy leaving her as soon as her benefits cash dried up.

She had to move back to her family in Devon and face the music.

The judge told her: "You were a person of good character but that has been blown away. This was dishonesty of a high order which represents a deeply entrenched course of dishonesty on your part. You claimed housing benefit on two properties where you said you were living when you clearly were not. I accept you were perhaps in thrall to a controlling individual in a relationship which came to an end as a result of the cessation of these benefits."

Miss Sally Daulton, prosecuting, said Jones claimed a total of £46,867.14 in disability and housing benefits and employment support allowance.

She also claimed another £33,000 in severe disability allowance, but was entitled to claim that even when living in Spain.

Checks showed she had spent more than half of each year abroad and Facebook posts recorded her relationship with Mr McHardy.

She made full admissions, has never been in trouble before, and medical notes showed she did suffer from arthritis and depression and would have been entitled to claim benefits in Britain.

Source with pictures

26 Dec 2018

Benefit fraudster told council she was single

A benefit cheat illegally pocketed more than £10,000 after telling a council she was single.

Laura Iredale claimed the housing benefit for more than two years from Newcastle City Council.

The 30-year-old has now been ordered to wear an electronic tag after she admitted benefit fraud.

North Tyneside Magistrates' Court heard Iredale made her claim when she was single and working part-time.

Prosecutor Ami Dodd said: "After claiming the housing benefit she failed to declare her partner had moved in with her and that she was in full-time employment. The claim was not fraudulent from the outset but the failure to declare put it in that category."

In total, £10,287 was illegally claimed between 2014 and 2016.

The court heard Iredale's relationship had "substantial up and downs" at the start but that they had now married.

Prosecutors said Iredale recognised "the point" they had agreed to marry was when she should have amended her claim, with her partner stopping at least one night a week.

The court heard Iredale, of Warwick Road, Newcastle, is now repaying the cash to the council.

Her solicitor added: "She's never been in trouble previous and I'm fairly sure she won't be in trouble in the future."

District Judge Bernard Beggley handed Iredale a six month curfew. She was also ordered to pay £85 in costs and an £85 charge.

Source with picture

24 Dec 2018

Benefit thief didn't declare her boyfriend was living with her

A benefit cheat claimed nearly £14,000 in wrongful payments after keeping quiet that her boyfriend was living with her.

He "came back on the scene" and she knew she should have declared the arrangement because he was working, a court heard.

Jemma Smith, 29, from Grimsby, admitted two offences of failing to notify a change in her circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefit between March 21, 2016 and October 22 last year.

Martin Howarth, prosecuting, told Grimsby Magistrates' Court that Smith claimed Income Support and housing benefit but was not entitled to do so for 83 weeks and was overpaid by £13,968.

This was because she began to live with her boyfriend, who was working full-time. They had reconciled.

Roy Foreman, mitigating, said the claim was not fraudulent at first but the boyfriend "came back on the scene". He was on a low income and they needed extra money. She made "stupid mistakes".

It may well have been that they were entitled to some help, such as working tax credits or child credit.

The family was now much better off because Smith was working in retail. She had been repaying £100 a month for about a year.

Mother-of-two Smith was ordered to do 60 hours' unpaid work and must pay £100 costs and a Government-imposed £85 victims' surcharge.


30 Nov 2018

Benefit fraud investigator fiddled tax credits

A Stourbridge woman who worked as a benefit fraud investigator has been warned she could be facing time behind bars after she fiddled nearly £19,000 from the system.

Tracey Griffiths - a mother of three - had been described by her Inland Revenue co-workers and friends as highly reliable and motivated.

But over a two year period the 36-year-old illegally pocketed a total of £18,863 by maintaining she and her husband Stewart were no longer a couple.

Judge Peter Cooke told Griffiths it was serious offending as he remanded her on bail until Monday December 17 for the preparation of a pre-sentence report. He said he could give Griffiths no indication as to what sentence would be imposed but he warned her the crime had "exposed her to the risk of immediate custody."

Griffiths had pleaded not guilty to fraudulently claiming tax credits but she was convicted by a jury on an 11-1 majority verdict.

The six man six woman panel had retired to consider the evidence for just over four hours at the end of her trial at Wolverhampton Crown Court.

Paul Mytton, prosecuting, said Griffiths had been well regarded in the investigation of benefit fraud and it was unlikely she would have been suspected of making a false claim.

"It was an ideal cover," he told the jury as he described Griffiths as an intelligent woman who knew the system well.

He said Griffiths had not been entitled to the money she fiddled. "She was not entitled to it because she was not single."

Griffiths had alleged she had separated from her husband and she made an application for tax credit while the couple were living together in Kingswinford.

But the prosecution said they enjoyed family holidays and the pair put a post on social media celebrating their first wedding anniversary.

Luke Ponte, defending, said Griffiths' domestic life had been "messy and complicated" but he stressed she had not acted fraudulently. A woman of previous good character, she had been entitled to make the claim and she had opened herself up to full scrutiny.

Griffiths is now expected to be sentenced at Warwick Crown Court where the judge normally dispenses justice.


22 Oct 2018

Benefit fraudster claimed she lived alone

A woman has appeared in court over a £48,000 benefit fraud.

Stacey Forster was put in the dock after it was found she was paid money she was not entitled to.

The 26-year-old, from Walker, claimed income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit over a number of years but had not alerted the authorities to a change in her circumstances.

She failed to inform them that she was living in the same household with a man as husband and wife, which meant she should not have received these payments.

At North Tyneside Magistrates' Court, Forster pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits. The offences spanned periods between 2011 and 2017.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: "The total loss amounts to £48,000. This is someone who was not entitled to benefits and does not play fair with the benefit people. She is given money that she's not entitled to.

"She was living together with someone but has not declared that to the authorities and has received benefits to which she was not entitled. You need to notify the departments of any change in circumstances."

Magistrates decided to send the case to Newcastle Crown Court as they felt their sentencing powers were insufficient.

Forster was asked to appear at crown court on November 14 for sentence and was released on unconditional bail.

Source with picture

Not hard, is it. Presumably her partner didn't notice a thing.

25 Sep 2018

Charity worker struck off for benefit fraud

Kerry Mulholland was employed by Sense Scotland as a relief support assistant when she was caught making false housing benefit claims.

She was convicted at Hamilton Sheriff Court of failing to notify South Lanarkshire Council that she was living with a partner, which affected her claim.

The false claims were made between January 11 2012 and January 11 2015.

Ms Mulholland was struck off the care register at a recent hearing of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).

The council described her behaviour as “dishonest and untrustworthy” and added: “Your behaviour calls into question your suitability to work in this sector.”


17 Sep 2018

Alcoholic managed £43k benefit fraud

An alcoholic who swindled £43,000 in benefits splashed out on a holiday to Thailand and Singapore, a court heard.

Lying Lorraine Deadman, aged 62, then told investigators that she thought she had “got away with it”.

Deadman failed to disclose her husband had moved back in while pocketing two types of benefit for more than three years.

She also did not mention an £18,000 inheritance a few months before the long-haul break, Plymouth Crown Court heard.

A judge said that it was “quite a bad case of its type.”

Handing her a suspended jail term, Recorder Jonathan Barnes added: “I would have been justified in sending you to prison but you have significant health problems, you are of good character and for some reason Colin Deadman has not been prosecuted in these matters.”

Prosecutors say her husband sold his house without telling the authorities and hid the fact he was living with her.

Lorraine Deadman, from Stonehouse, pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to inform the DWP and Plymouth City Council of a change of circumstances affecting her claims.

She admitted failing to promptly notify them she was living with Colin Deadman between November 2013 and March last year.

She claimed housing benefit and employment support allowance in the sum of £43,253.

Mike Brown, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said she started claiming housing benefit in 2011 and employment support allowance in September 2013. He said she declared she was jobless and living on her own.

Mr Brown added that Mr Deadman moved in during November 2013, bringing with him his pension.

The barrister said he had not declared the sale of his own home and tried to conceal that he was living with his wife. He added that investigators found he paid some of the bills at the defendant’s home.

Mr Brown said Deadman also lied on annual forms where she was meant to update her details. He added she failed to declare an inheritance of £18,000 at the end of 2013.

The barrister said Deadman had a holiday in Singapore and Thailand early the next year.

The Crown is starting legal action under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize any assets.

Will Willden, barrister for Deadman, said: “She has for the best part of her life been addicted to alcohol at a very severe level.”

He added she had struggled to cope with the death of her young son and suffered poor health. She had managed to stay out of trouble until this offence.

Mr Willden said that she and Mr Deadman had already paid back more than £5,000. He told the court she had no assets and the legacy had gone, but was continuing to make contributions of £100 a month.

He said: “There is a positive outlook and she has been abstinent for some time.”

Deadman was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months, with 20 days of intensive probation supervision.

She must stick to a three-month curfew for seven days a week between 6am and 6pm.

Source with picture

8 Aug 2018

Plymouth woman admits £43k benefit fraud over more than three years

A woman has admitted a £43,000 benefit fraud over more than three years.

Lying Lorraine Deadman, aged 63, failed to tell the authorities she was sharing a home with her husband, a court heard. Deadman pocketed housing benefit and employment support allowance which she did not deserve.

She pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to inform the Department for Work and Pensions and Plymouth City Council of a change of circumstances affecting her claims.

The defendant admitted at Plymouth Crown Court she failed to promptly notify them she was living with Colin Deadman between November 2013 and March last year.

Deadman, from Stonehouse, had denied the offences before city magistrates last month but changed her pleas during her first appearance at the senior court.

Will Willden, barrister for Deadman, said she had no previous convictions.

He added she had mental health and physical difficulties.

Mr Willden said that she had started paying back the money she had been overpaid.

Judge Paul Darlow adjourned sentence until September 7 for a probation report. She was released on unconditional bail.

Source with picture

31 Jul 2018

Benefit fraud investigation took years

A benefit fraudster grandmother illegally claimed more than £41,000 which she spent on luxury holidays to Egypt. (h/t Fraud Manager)

Geraldine Thomas, 54, of Bargoed , failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Caerphilly council about a change of circumstances over a period of five years.

The defendant told the authorities she was living on her own, but her partner Raymond Adams had been living with her since 2011 and while she was claiming benefits he was working and contributing to the household income.

A sentencing hearing at Newport Crown Court heard Thomas been in a relationship with Mr Adams on and off since 2000 and had rekindled their relationship in 2011.

From that date to 2016 Thomas claimed income support worth £24,174, employment and support allowance worth £115, housing benefit worth £16,136 and council tax benefit worth ££925. The total amount of benefits which had been illegally claimed was £41,350.

Thomas used money she had illegally obtained to fund a number of luxury holidays to destinations such as Egypt for her and her partner.

An investigation was launched by the DWP and Gwent Police, who monitored Thomas and Mr Adams over a number of years and used a "search and seizure" order to enter the defendant's home and gain evidence.

After being arrested and charged Thomas later pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud.

Defence barrister Kathryn Lane said her client had never been before the courts before.

She added: "[Thomas] foolishly engaged in this offending and is thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed by it. She comes to court today knowing the consequences she faces. Ms Thomas is a valued and routinely relied and depended-upon family member and a valued member of the community.

"There have been a number of bereavements of close family members recently which has had an effect on her and she has been picking up the pieces of those closest to her. This does not excuse her behaviour but she is a lady who would find it very hard in custody. She is suffering from mental ill health and physical ill health having suffered from a stroke and two hip replacements."

Addressing the mother-of-one and grandmother-of-two, Recorder Patrick Harrington QC said Thomas had done something very serious.

He said: "No mention has been made of your lifestyle and I know what the money has been spent on. It was spent on an expensive holiday wasn't it? You were not the instigator of this but you continued the relationship and you continued claiming the money for a very long time.

"Benefit fraud is rife and costs honest hardworking people a lot of money. You committed offences which aggregated more than £41,000. That is a great deal of money and it is your fault that you have found yourself in this position now."

Thomas was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place on November 13 to determine how much Thomas will be ordered to pay back.

After the case Donna James, senior leader for fraud in south Wales for the DWP, said: "This is a blatant act of fraud. As a department we are taking action to retrieve overpayments but also any assets amassed while the offences that have been committed were ongoing."

Source with pictures

18 Jul 2018

Slow benefit fraud enforcers can't find offender - from 2012!

Cotswold taxpayers are set to foot a near-£8,000 bill as council chiefs can't find a housing benefit claimant who received thousands more than she should have.

The district council cannot locate Agnieszka Lopatka, who received £8,004 in housing benefits across a two-year period after registering her address in the Melville Estate, Bourton-on-the-Water.

The council now have to use local taxpayers' cash to plug the £7,889 black hole until they trace Mrs Lopatka.

Officials first noticed the overpayments to Mrs Lopatka on October 8 2012 when she received £230 over two weeks, and failed to declare she no longer lived at her Bourton-on-the-Water address and re-located to Swindon.

The council's benefit fraud investigation team then found they were being advised to cancel Mrs Lopatka's housing benefit from 2011 because evidence showed that she had been living with her partner and was not living in Bourton-on-the-Water.

The review found Mrs Lopatka received £7,774.14 between May 2 2011 to June 3 2012.

Invoices and reminder notices were sent to Mrs Lopatka at her Swindon address, a document states ahead of the council's cabinet meeting.

The council had asked Swindon Borough Council twice over two months for details of Mrs Lopatka but never received a response. zzzz

The authority's legal department took the matter to the County Court, where the case progressed to the High Court but no enforcement was actioned as law chiefs were not able to trace her. ££££

The Government's tax department HMRC were also unsuccessful in finding her whereabouts.

The authority used a council tax credit of £115 for the Bourton-on-the-Water address to reduce the overpayment, leaving taxpayers' money to fill the hole at £7,889.

Efforts are still being made to locate Mrs Lopatka, who could not be contacted for comment.

Cotswold District Council's cabinet will decide whether vote through the write-off on July 19 at 4pm.


So how much has this very belated enforcement action cost local taxpayers?

30 May 2018

Woman jailed for benefit fraud

A 54-year-old woman who claimed almost £35,000 in benefits over five years has been jailed.

Mary Mitchell, from Old Kilpatrick, appeared for sentencing at Dumbarton Sheriff Court for obtaining the Jobseekers Allowance, and housing and council tax benefits between February 2010 and October 2015.

She previously pleaded guilty to the charges after the case was reduced from a solemn matter that would have gone in front of a jury.

Sentencing had been delayed after it became apparent Mitchell had significant hearing difficulties and she was aided last week by an assistant typing out what was said by court officials so Mitchell could read it on a computer screen in front of her.

Her defence solicitor, Brian McGuire, acknowledged the hearing troubles were the only mitigating factor preventing her going to jail.

Mr McGuire said Mitchell developed an alcohol problem after 2000 and it got worse before getting married to her husband.

The drinking got so bad, her husband left the home for a number of years.

Twice Mitchell was admitted to hospital and given a “stark warning” she would “kill herself” if she continued to drink, and she lost three jobs as a result of her addiction.

Eventually she managed to get off the drink and her husband returned home.

But Mitchell didn’t acknowledge to officials that she was no longer living alone and that her husband was working.

Mr McGuire said: “She accepted her guilt but there was a dispute about the background. The parties are doing what they can to pay it back. Her husband had been paying back £30 a month for two years. I think it would take 30 years to repay this. There’s a stark choice. Does it have to be custody? People go to prison that fall into the category that shouldn’t go to prison.”

But Sheriff John Hamilton noted the social work report on Mitchell didn’t mention the hearing problem at all and that the Court of Appeal was clear that jail was the appropriate sentence for fraud amounts over £20,000.

The sheriff paused for a long period as he considered his options but said he had to consider the public protection element.

He said: “It’s not just about her. It’s the matter of the message sent out to the public. This is a very difficult case. For five years, you knowingly defrauded two support funds to the tune of £35,000 and no real reason for it has been put forward. That’s a significant sum. I accept you have no previous convictions and you may have health problems. But I feel compelled that this level of defrauding public funds is very much towards the top end of the scale.”

Mitchell was jailed for six months, reduced from 10 months because she pleaded guilty.


1 May 2018

Benefit cheat 'did not particularly regret' claiming £11,600

A man who fraudulently claimed more than £11,600 in benefits has been told it is “astonishing” that he does not really regret doing it.

Christopher Barber initially didn’t tell the authorities that his wife had moved in with him, and then when he came clean about that he did not notify them she was working.

When eventually caught, he said he did not disclose the real situation because it would have meant a cut in the amount of money he was receiving.

Swansea Crown Court heard Barber’s initial claims for employment and support allowance were based on him living alone, and being unable to work due to ill health.

However, his wife later moved into the address, and they began maintaining a “common household”.

He did not at first notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) about the new arrangements - but when he did, he claimed his wife was not working. In fact she worked as a care assistant.

In total Barber fraudulently claimed some £11,618.59 between November 2014 and June 2017.

Barber, aged 58, from Bonymaen, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to promptly notify the authorities of a change of circumstance when he appeared in the dock for sentencing. He has no previous convictions.

The court heard he had told benefit investigators he did not disclose the changes in circumstances because that would have meant a reduction in the amount of money he was receiving, and he was struggling to get by as it was.

Lee Davies, for Barber, said his client’s benefit claim had initially been legitimate, but he accepted the prosecution case that he had subsequently failed to notify the DWP.

Judge Geraint Walters told the defendant he had “effectively stolen from the state”.

He said the defendant claimed to have difficulty managing his bills and finance but said many tens of thousands of people were experiencing similar problems, and that was not an excuse for what he had done.

The judge said he had read a pre-sentence report into Barber which said he did not seem to particularly regret what he had done.

He said: “It is astonishing that you have the gall to tell a probation officer that you did not particularly regret it. You should. This case is serious enough to justify prison. You helped yourself to benefits to which you were not entitled.”

For each of the two offences Barber was sentenced to six months in prison, the sentence to run concurrently - at the same time - making six months in total, and wholly suspended for 18 months. He was also ordered to complete a rehabilitation course.

Barber has so far repaid £133.20 of the money he owes.

The court heard a Proceeds of Crime Act investigation was currently underway, and judge Walters warned Barber that “if you are found to have any assets, you won’t be keeping them”.


10 Apr 2018

Benefits cheat must pay back £25,000

A mum who swindled £25,000 in benefits must pay back the cash or face a year in prison.

Dishonest Janet Trewin, aged 55, carried on pocketing money for three and a half years even though she was sharing a home with a working partner.

She walked free with unpaid work but was brought back to court under the Proceeds of Crime Act so prosecutors could seize her ill-gotten gains.

Michael Brown, for the Department for Work and Pensions, said that she had falsely claimed £24,999. But the amount she must pay back has been increased to £26,434 to take into account inflation.

Mr Brown added that it was agreed that Trewin’s assets – her interest in a property – amounted to £97,876.

Judge James Townsend ordered that she pay back £26,434 within three months and set a default period in jail of 12 months.

Ali Rafati, for Trewin, said his client had already started paying back the money to the DWP – which will be deducted from the final total. He told an earlier hearing that she might have to sell the property to raise the cash.

Trewin pleaded guilty to dishonestly making a false claim for Employment Support Allowance between August 2012 and January 2016.

She failed to tell the authorities she was living with her working partner, Dennis Blyth.

Trewin had been due to face trial but changed her plea in the face of the jury last November.

The court heard she in the end “let slip” she was living with a man and her children during an interview with investigators.

Mr Rafati told an earlier hearing that Mr Blyth, who had been in her life for a decade, had now left her.

Source with picture

6 Apr 2018

Benefit cheat who scammed £75k claiming to be single mum jailed for 2 years

A benefit scammer whose £75,000 fraud was rumbled after a bitter row over her dead partner’s estate has been jailed for more than two years.

The Daily Record told how Angela Clark lied about being a single mum for 12 years – while living with partner David Ellis.

He died in December 2014 following a battle with bile duct and liver cancer – sparking a row with his parents Jennifer and Stewart Ellis over a £126,000 inheritance.

The couple revealed how Clark spent hundreds of pounds on air tickets for a relative and used David’s bank account to make other purchases – just hours after his death.

Stewart, 68, said: “She has no shame. David passed away at 9pm on the Friday – on the Saturday morning she used his private account to buy the ticket for her cousin and a mattress.”

Despite lying to the DWP for 12 years that she was a single mum, her name appeared on David’s tombstone, which says “loving partner of Angela”.

Clark later told lawyers handling the row with his mother that she had been living constantly with him for almost 20 years.

Yesterday, a sheriff told Clark she had committed a “fraud on the entire community” and jailed her for 26 months.

Dundee Sheriff Court heard David had a full-time job with BT and funded the family to “go on holiday all over the world”.

Clark repeatedly told the DWP she was single to keep receiving payments totalling £75,616.05 over 12 years.

Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson told the court: “His mother told DWP the couple had lived as husband and wife since 1995 or 1996 until his death and that he would pay most of the bills because she was ‘continually getting into debt’.”

Clark, 40, of Fintry Road, Dundee, pled guilty to a charge under the Tax Credits Act committed between 2002 and David’s death in 2014.


Did it only come out because of a family argument?

23 Mar 2018

Suspended sentence for recidivist pensioner benefit fraudster

'Persistently dishonest' pensioner Ellen Lowe wrongly pocketed £23,000 in benefits over a four-year period.

The 70-year-old told the authorities that she lived alone in Blurton and had stopped working due to ill health in 2008.

But it has emerged that the defendant's daughter moved in with her in 2011 and she currently works eight hours every week.

Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Lowe:

Falsely claimed £16,268.29 in housing benefit between July, 2011 and November, 2015;
Falsely claimed £387.42 in council tax benefit between July, 2011 and March, 2013;
Falsely claimed £6,131.13 in pension credit between October, 2013 and July, 2016.

Now Lowe is paying the cash back at a rate of £25-a-week after she admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in her circumstances.

Recorder Stephen Thomas told Lowe: "The total amount you wrongly claimed without telling the truth of your real circumstances was around £23,000.

"People who go to work are taxed for their money and people like you take it from them when you are not entitled to it and it is not the first time you have done this. You are persistently dishonest and on this occasion it was because you either made false representations or failed to correct representations about your position. I take into account your age but age is no bar to receiving custodial sentences in this court."

Lowe has been handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months. She must also complete 200 hours unpaid work and pay £100 costs.

Stuart Muldoon, mitigating, had earlier called for the defendant to be kept out of prison.

He said: "She is 70 years old and not a danger to society. She takes the easy option when she is struggling financially and is paying back the money at a rate of £25-a-week through her state pension. She works eight hours-a-week and that is properly registered with the authorities. She is not in good health and works to keep herself active."

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13 Mar 2018

Benefit fraud sentence deferred

An Angus woman who obtained £25,000 in benefits after forgetting to tell the authorities she was married has been given six months to stay out of jail by making a sizeable dent in paying back the money.

Donna Taylor was in an on-off relationship with her ex, but when the pair eventually tied the knot the Montrose 42-year-old continued to claim working and child tax credits by declaring she was a single parent.

Taylor, from Brechin, previously admitted obtaining the five-figure sum between January 2012 and November 2015 at an address in the town’s Southesk Street.

She had been warned by a sheriff that custody was the likely outcome given sentencing guidelines in cases involving such a significant sum.

Defence solicitor Nick Markowski told Forfar Sheriff Court the accused had already paid some of the money back directly –around £1,500 – and was hopeful that her father may be able to provide around £15,000.

“She is keen to get this matter behind her, but the major part of the equation is the repayment,” he told the court.

“She was in an on-off relationship with her former partner during that period. They would have an argument and he would head off for five or six weeks at a time to his parents’ address. The longest period he was out of the house was five or six months, but most of the time it was for a number of weeks.

“She didn’t have any faith in the relationship but they got married and it was not reported to the authorities,” added Mr Markowski. “Her lack of faith in the marriage was unfortunately well-founded – the parties separated and they are now divorced.”

He told the court Taylor had lost her job with Tayside Contracts as a result of the court proceedings.

“She understands that, given the level involved, her liberty is at risk, but she has not got any record.”

He said Taylor had also been served with a Proceeds of Crime notice which would look to seize realisable assets.

“That may be looking at the property where they were living, which was in joint names but was transferred to her husband’s name in the divorce so the Crown office may have missed the boat in that regard,” added Mr Markowski.

Sheriff Jillian Martin-Brown deferred sentence on Taylor until September for her to be of good behaviour and an update on the repayment position. A Proceeds of Crime hearing was scheduled for next month.