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19 Jun 2018

Benefit cheat posted holiday snaps on facebook!

A benefits cheat who had nearly £400,000 in the bank was caught after officials found Facebook pictures of her enjoying lavish foreign holidays.

Teresa Hardy posted snaps of her breaks in Belgium, Lanzarote, Cyprus, Tunisia, France and Spain while she was claiming council tax relief.

Investigators from North West Leicestershire District Council prosecuted the 48-year-old after becoming suspicious about her claims.

Hardy started claiming Council Tax support from the authority in April 2013, saying she had no income other than the employment and support allowance she received. She gained £3,931.23 in council tax reduction benefit, and went on to claim additional discretionary ‘hardship’ payments of £557 and £218 in 2014 and 2015 respectively, due to her income allegedly being so much lower than her outgoings.

Council officers became suspicious in August 2017, and launched an investigation into Hardy’s claims, which have now led to payments over a four year period. They discovered three bank accounts showing a total balance of £374,833, and took to social media to find further evidence.

There officers found evidence on Facebook of the defendant enjoying holidays during the period she was claiming. The search also revealed Hardy to be the owner of a business called Doodle Mania, and a website advertising her as an artist. Hardy, from Ibstock, appeared at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, where she admitted dishonestly claiming council tax reduction and fraudulently receiving further discretionary payments.

‘Exceptional circumstances’ regarding Hardy’s health saw magistrates give her a three-year conditional discharge. A collection order was made which will see Hardy pay the council’s costs of £1,812. The council tax benefit and hardship payments, totalling £4,688.23, are also to be paid back.

After the hearing, the district council’s corporate portfolio holder Nick Rushton said: ‘I hope this sends a message to anyone considering making a fraudulent claim that they won’t get away with it and will be taken to court. This case is particularly galling in that the defendant was spending the money of hardworking taxpayers on extravagant holidays abroad. Thanks to the excellent work of our legal and revenue and benefits teams, this money will now be reclaimed and reinvested into the council services we offer.’

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18 Jun 2018

Jail for £24k benefit fraudster

Benefit fraudster Alan Lancaster, from Biddulph, has been sent to prison after he wrongly claimed just over £24,000.

The 63-year-old carried on receiving benefits while he was working - after he failed to tell the authorities he had got a job as a courier.

Now Lancaster, who had no previous convictions, has been jailed for 24 weeks after he admitted three benefit fraud charges.

Magistrates at North Staffordshire Justice Centre heard Lancaster legitimately started claiming Employment Support Allowance and housing benefit when he had to give up work due to a back injury.

Prosecutor Lynne Warrington said: "He did not notify the authorities that he had commenced employment.

"In January 2014 he made an application in respect of the income-based portion of Employment Support Allowance on which he claimed he was not working. However, this was not the case. The total overpayment was £24,770. When he was interviewed under caution he accepted that when he began working he had not notified the Department for Work and Pensions, as he was aware he was due to do.

"He accepted that when he made the application false information was given, which would have affected which benefits he was entitled to."

Lancaster pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in his circumstances affecting his entitlement to benefits, and dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefits.

He told a probation officer that when he got the job as a courier he was on a 'zero hours' contract and work was sporadic, so he never felt he was working enough to justify telling the authorities.

Mark Bromley, mitigating, said Lancaster was remorseful and added: "He intends to repay every penny that has been overpaid to him."

Jailing Lancaster, magistrates said that the only appropriate sentence was immediate custody.

Chairman of the bench, Phillip Taylor, said: "It was not for you to judge whether the change in your circumstances needed to be disclosed. This has a damaging effect on the public purse. The public need to maintain confidence in the scrutiny of benefit claimants."

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14 Jun 2018

Woman on benefits didn't declare inheritance

A woman took her family on a £15,000 Disneyland holiday while falsely claiming benefits after failing to mention to the authorities she had inherited more than £170,000.

Christine Angell, 61, fraudulently claimed nearly £50,000 in housing benefit and employment and support allowance, telling investigators she did not think she was obliged to declare "gifts".

Speaking at Cardiff Crown Court , her counsel Aled Watkins said she "buried her head in the sand".

The court heard she wrongly claimed a total of £47,315.97 over a five-and-a-half-year period.

Jeffrey Jones, prosecuting, said the DWP received information that she had "hidden capital" while claiming benefits.

Prosecutors said the benefits were paid on the basis that she would inform the authorities of any changes in her circumstances affecting her entitlement to claim but she made repeated false declarations.

The court heard there was an investigation and the DWP found she was receiving large sums of money, which she did not bring to their attention.

Mr Jones said Angell inherited significant amounts from her brother and partner. Investigators found she had five bank accounts with NatWest and received nearly £40,000 on April 13, 2012, followed by another £20,000, then £15,000 a month later.

In December the following year £50,000 was deposited in her account followed by another £47,000. Prosecutors said she was also receiving regular monthly payments of about £1,000, and sometimes as much as £3,750, from her brother's assets in Switzerland.

The court heard she took her family on holiday to Disneyland, costing £15,000, and there was a second holiday to Orlando.

Angell was interviewed on June 16 last year and denied doing anything wrong. The court heard her brother died in 2008 and her partner died in 2011.

She accepted she had inherited from them but believed she did not have to disclose the amounts as they were "gifts".

Mr Jones said the money was "depleted" and there was no point in the DWP pursuing confiscation proceedings to try and get it back. He made an application for £340 towards prosecution costs.

Prosecutors said they could not argue that she led a "lavish lifestyle" but drew the court's attention to the holidays.

Angell admitted three counts of benefit fraud. Mr Watkins said she had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

He said she took her family on holiday because her partner stated he wanted his money to be spent on the family. Mr Watkins added: "She felt obliged and complied with his wish."

The court heard she was grieving at the time of the offending and was prescribed medication for depression.

Angell's counsel said she has multiple health problems and brought a bag of medication to court as she has to take 12 different tablets a day, including morphine. Mr Watkins added: "Coming to court today has been a very difficult process for her."

He said the case had been "hanging over her head" since June last year and she was told the money would be deducted from her benefits.

Judge Michael Fitton QC asked whether issues surrounding her health had been raised with the Prison Service.

He said he was considering an immediate custodial sentence of around 10 months meaning she would spend five months behind bars.

The judge adjourned the case for further inquiries to be made into the likely short-term and long-term impacts on her health of immediate custody and whether the prison would be able to provide necessary treatment.

She was granted bail until the next hearing on July 4 and warned that bail was no indication as to sentence.

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11 Jun 2018

Recidivist benefit thief mother told to expect jail

A mother of three convicted of a £107,000 benefits scam attended her trial with the words “what goes around comes around” tattooed on her arm.

Jennie Andrews also sported the words “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

But she has now been warned to prepare herself for custody.

Andrews, 34, from Connah’s Quay, admitted two charges but was convicted by a jury of a third allegation which meant a total overpayment of £107, 738.

It occurred between 2008 and 2016 and involved income support and housing benefit, prosecuting barrister Sion ap Mihangel told a Mold Crown Court jury.

Robin Boag, defending, said she denied being dishonest when she filled a form in November 2013 because it was her case that at the time she was not cohabiting and maintaining a common household. It was her case that it only later became dishonest when Jody Robinson moved in and she had admitted that, he explained.

After she was unanimously convicted by the jury, Judge Niclas Parry rebailed her pending sentence in two weeks’ time and ordered a full pre-sentence report from the probation service.

The court then heard she had a previous conviction for making false representation to obtain benefit in 2002 and had received a conditional discharge.

Judge Parry said it was right that the jury should know that he had indicated before the trial that if she helped herself and pleaded guilty then he could consider a non-custodial sentence.

She was a mother of three and every effort was always made not to send mothers into custody but she had made a decision and had been convicted. It was a very serious example of benefit fraud, he said.

Judge Parry warned Andrews that she needed to make arrangements for the care of her children for when she came back to court for sentence on June 21.

Prosecutor Sion ap Mihangel said the defendant claimed a significant amount of benefits and misled Flintshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions as to her true living arrangements.

From about 2005 onwards she applied for and was paid income support and housing benefit.

“These claims were granted on the basis that she was in receipt of low income and that she was a lone parent with caring responsibilities,” he said.

She signed a declaration stating that the information she had provided was accurate and true.

Andrews was told that if her circumstances changed she should promptly notify the relevant authorities.

Evidence included addresses used for her and her partner Mr Robinson, from a child’s birth certificate, bank details and correspondence from a property managing company which showed they maintained a common household.

He said the change of circumstances would have “impacted significantly” on the amount of benefit she was entitled to. “The amount of overpayment, the prosecution say, which applies in this case is £107,738.87,” he said.

Andrews accepted there came a point when she failed to notify the authorities, but disputed that it was for the length of time suggested by the prosecution.

Interviewed, she initially denied that her partner lived with her. When pressed about his car being seen outside her property, the birth certificate and the circumstances surrounding the rented property, she maintained her account. She said he lived elsewhere and that theirs was a totally platonic relationship and they were just friends. His bank statements were sent to her address but that was because he did not want them going to his home address, where he lived with his wife, she said in interview.

She then admitted that he did live with her, but that it had been in the last year only. Andrews said she had not mentioned it because she was afraid her benefits would be reduced.

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£35k benefit fraudster ordered to repay the full amount

A man who committed a £35,000 benefit fraud on his return from a life in Spain has failed in his bid to reduce the amount he must pay back.

Michael Dugdale, 69, was previously handed two suspended prison sentences and ordered to fully repay the wrongfully claimed cash, after a court heard he failed to declare that he owned half a property in Mazarron, Murcia.

DWP fraud teams based in the UK and Spain launched an investigation into his claim after an anonymous tip off.

At the time Dugdale admitted two counts of benefit fraud, stating his dire economic situation on his return to the UK from Spain in 2007 had left him no choice but to make a bogus claim for a benefit he knew he was not entitled to. Upon his return to the country, the father-of-one, who grew up in Ribbleton, Preston, and attended Ribbleton Hall High School, failed to declare his share of the Spanish property when making a claim for Pension Credit in 2007.

He was ordered to repay the funds in full at a subsequent Proceeds of Crime Act hearing or face imprisonment. He launched a bid at Preston Crown Court to vary the order on the basis he no longer has the assets. It is understood he claims to have spent all but £15,000 of his £46,000 share of a house in Spain on more pressing debts.

Judge Philip Parry refused his application.

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8 Jun 2018

Naughty granny

A grandmother illegally claimed almost £9,000 in housing benefits from Wyre Council.

Joanna Horsley became a benefit cheat when she failed to disclose that her husband was working.

When interviewed by benefit fraud investigators, she said medical problems she had had affected her memory.

The fraud investigators then pointed out to her that she only seemed to report changes that were advantageous to her. Horsley, 45, from Cleveleys, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify a change in her circumstances.

She was sentenced to a four-week tagged curfew from 7pm to 7am and ordered to pay £85 costs with £85 victims’ surcharge.

Prosecutor, Pam Smith, said Horsley had illegally claimed £8,820 in housing benefit between October 2015 and February last year.

She had told the authorities when her partner no longer worked for a double glazing company and he had only received carer’s allowance for her. She also informed the authorities when he had moved out of the household for a time, but she failed to disclose it when he first started work for a postal delivery firm.

Allan Cobain, defending, said his client, who had no previous convictions, suffered from a myriad of medical conditions and walked with a stick.

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In old news ...

Love Island hunk Adam Collard's property tycoon father is a convicted benefit fraudster, MailOnline can reveal.

So proud

7 Jun 2018

Small fine for sub-letting council flat

A council house tenant has been fined after admitting subletting his Exeter home.

Dave Kelly, from Farnborough, admitted subletting his council flat in Clifton Road, Exeter, from September 28 2014 until August 2016.


He pleaded guilty to the offence at Plymouth Magistrates Court and was fined £325, ordered to pay back the £5,985 he gaoned by subletting the property, a victim surcharge of £32 and £450 costs.

The court heard that at the time of the offence, Kelly was working away in Hampshire where he was staying with his girlfriend.

He decided to sublet his council property to a friend of his mother and arranged for the unlawful sub-tenant to pay £540 a month into his bank account. This amount was later increased to £590 and then £610 a month.

An investigation, carried out by Plymouth City Council Fraud Team on behalf of the Devon Tenancy Fraud Group, was started after an anonymous telephone caller alleged that the tenant was not occupying the property but was instead sub-letting it to someone else.

After the case, an Exeter City Council spokesman said that social housing fraud costs the UK economy £1.8 billion a year:
At a time when social housing is at a premium, this criminal behaviour is totally unacceptable. Exeter City Council has a zero tolerance approach to fraud and will continue to protect the public purse. Fraudulent activity diverts money and resources from those who legitimately have need of council services and contributes to higher council tax bills.
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31 May 2018

Parent pretended to be single in benefit fraud

A mother who claimed she was 'incapable of work' managed to get £12,000 in single parent benefits despite living with her fiance of five years.

Jodene Newton, 25, claimed her five-year relationship with National Grid worker Colin McLellan wasn't stable enough to notify the DWP and denied living with him when questioned.

On her Facebook page she says she has been engaged to him since 2013.

Magistrates in Burnley, Lancashire, were told how Mr McLellan gave the National Grid his address as Padiham, which was Newton's home, the defendant was his emergency contact and HSBC also had the same address for McLellan and a loan was taken out there.

Prosecutor Tracy Yates told the hearing Newton was in receipt of Universal Credit from February 8, 2016 until July 7, 2017.

She got it on the basis she was a lone parent, incapable of work and had no other income.

Evidence showed she failed to declare a change in circumstances and was maintaining a 'common household' with Mr McLellan between August 8, 2016 and July 7, 2017.

Mrs Yates said: 'When the defendant was interviewed on June 29, 2017, she denied she was living with him. In her second interview, on August 2, 2017, she admitted she had been dishonest in her first interview, saying the relationship was on and off and following arguments he would leave and stay with friends and would return after a few days or a week.'

The prosecutor added Newton, who had a previous conviction for common assault, was overpaid £11,658,19.

Laura Heywood, defending Newton, said she had been in a very turbulent relationship, which was on and off.

The solicitor said: 'She thought that her relationship wasn't stable enough to notify the DWP. It was that background that led to her failing to notify the benefits agency. It wasn't a fraud from the outset. Over time, he has gradually stayed more and more.'

Miss Heywood said the defendant, who was fostering a child and worked self-employed making baby castings, was paying back the DWP at £80 a month.

She said: 'It was a relatively short period as far as benefit fraud is concerned.'

The lawyer added: 'Mr McLellan is now living there full-time. The benefits agency are fully aware of that. '

Newton admitted dishonesty failing to promptly notify the DWP of a change in circumstances. She was sentenced to a 12-month community order with 100 hours unpaid work and must pay an £85 victim surcharge.

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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.

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