27 Mar 2015

Benefit thief fined £100 for illegally claiming £4700

It seems to be Get Off Lightly time in the West Country again. Dave noticed this.

A Torquay woman who cheated the taxpayer of almost £5,000 in benefits has been fined £100 by magistrates.

Audrey Tomlinson, 56, claimed housing benefit on the basis she earned just £81 a week working. But an investigation by Torbay Council found she actually earned £207 a week.

Tomlinson admitted failing to notify the council of a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to housing benefit when she appeared before magistrates in Torquay. The court was told the offence went on for a 14-month period between November 2012 and March 2014.

Prosecutor Michael McCabe said: "This defendant is a long-term benefit claimant who had a detailed history of benefit claiming. She was aware of the need to inform about her change of circumstances. It is clear this defendant was very well aware that wage increases affect entitlement to benefit. The only explanation for her failure to tell them she was working is because she was aware that had she notified them her benefits would have been cut."

Mr McCabe described the offence as 'multiple fraud committed over a significant period of time'.

The full amount she claimed illegally was £4,716.

The prosecutor said the cost of bringing the prosecution to court would be footed by the council tax payer. He asked for £600, which he described as 'only a proportion' of the full costs.

David Charles, mitigating, said Tomlinson's claim for benefits had not been fraudulent from the beginning. He said she had cooperated straight away when the council raised concerns.

Magistrates said they were satisfied she was paying back the £4,716 she had illegally claimed.

They fined the defendant £100; ordered costs of £300 and told her to pay a surcharge of £20.


26 Mar 2015

In praise of IDS

James Bartholomew discusses Iain Duncan Smith's place in history, saying that he has presided over profound changes to our welfare system and a huge reduction in unemployment.

Our interest is Bartholomew's acknowledgement that
Official estimates of the amount of fraud in welfare are dramatically short of the reality. Jobcentre officials have been given the power to require people to sign on more frequently and at varying times of day if they believe a claimant may be working on the side or otherwise not being serious about finding legitimate work.
This is a major claim for IDS and worth reading in full.

What next? If we have a Labour government, the reforms will probably be diluted. What if the Tories get back? Cameron has form for removing potentially great reformers (I'm thinking of Michael Gove). He has already tried to move IDS once. Would IDS be left in post after the election?

Probably not - sadly.

25 Mar 2015

Jail for £120k benefits fraud

Following a Borough of Poole-led joint investigation with Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and the DWP, Eric Stone has been sentenced to two years imprisonment at Bournemouth Crown Court.

He pleaded guilty to charges of making false claims for Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Employment & Support Allowance totalling over £120,000.

Mr Stone's initial benefit claims were made in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with claims for Housing and Council Tax Benefits made in Poole from July 2009 onwards. All claims were made on the basis that he was a single adult who was not married, had no children, was not working, and had no capital or property.

An investigation started after information received by the Borough of Poole suggesting Mr Stone's partner and two children were living in the property with him established that Mr Stone in fact married in 1996 and had two children with his wife.

Claims for benefit were made for properties owned by his wife, whilst Mr Stone falsely advised the Borough of Poole that she was his sister-in-law. The investigation also revealed that Mr Stone owns two properties in his name, one of which was not declared. His wife also owns at least three properties, including the property for which Mr Stone claimed benefit.

In summing up the case and before passing sentence Judge Harrow stated that 'benefits are for the needy and it is important for those claiming to be honest about their circumstances', describing Mr Stone's actions as 'a breach of trust between you and the taxpayer and authorities'. In sentencing, the judge said that he had 'no option but to consider an immediate prison sentence', adding that 'had it not been for the early guilty pleas and repayment of £82,000 of the overpayment to date, it would have been three years'.

Councillor Elaine Atkinson, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Revenue & Benefits, Borough of Poole, said: "This was an extremely serious case of fraud, not only because of the amount which was overpaid but also because of the deliberate and dishonest actions of Mr Stone, the length of time over which it was perpetrated and the sheer amount of information that was withheld by Mr Stone about his true circumstances."

The full amounts fraudulently claimed were:

Poole - £29,945.18 Housing Benefit and £3,537.04 Council Tax Benefit
Oldham - £24,977.08 Housing Benefit and £7,198.18 Council Tax Benefit
DWP - £46,291.10 and £8,310.70.

All monies claimed from the Borough of Poole have since been repaid in full.


24 Mar 2015

Employment and Support Allowance

This is not about fraud (not ostensibly, anyway). The government claims to have done much on ESA, but there is still more to do.

More than 100,000 people are claiming around £100 a week in benefits after being assessed as unable to work due to addiction, obesity or stress.

They are claiming Employment Support Allowance (ESA), which is awarded to those who have an illness or disability that affects their ability to work.

The benefit replaced incapacity benefit, income support and severe disablement allowance with an annual cost to the taxpayer of £725million.

Now 56,000 people with alcohol problems receive ESA, while 36,650 drug addicts are also claimants.

In addition 47,990 people with stress are also handed around £100 a week, with 1,780 obese people receiving the benefit.

Bournemouth has the biggest proportion of claimants of ESA for people with alcohol and drug addictions, with around one in 14 people in the Dorset town who are handed the benefit abusing alcohol, while one in 20 have drug addiction problems.

Other areas with a high percentage of claimants with drug and alcohol addictions include Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Bristol.

Meanwhile, the biggest proportion of claimants due to stress is South Hams in Devon, closely followed by Tamworth in Staffordshire and Richmond in North Yorkshire.

The highest percentage of ESA claimants due to obesity is Sevenoaks as well as Malling and Tonbrige, all in Kent.

According to the government 'you can apply for ESA if you're employed, self-employed, unemployed or a student on disability living allowance'.

The initial assessment phase lasts for 13 weeks, during which your income and capital are analysed.

Last year, the government claimed more than 100 people stopped claiming sickness benefits every day over 2013.

Since May 2010, when the Coalition took over, there has been a fall of 160,000 people claiming sickness payments.

Ministers claim the success is down to the Government's controversial new assessment regime pioneered by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.

This is due to applicants' physical and mental conditions assessed to show how it would affect their ability to work is also assessed.

Sometimes applicants are asked to undergo a medical examination and are asked about how their condition affects their ability to carry out every day tasks, whether they vary from one day to another and what their normal day is like.

Last year the private French firm that decided whether benefits claimants were fit for work pulled out of its £500million contract after claiming its staff received death threats.

Atos Healthcare, which has been accused of making unfair decisions on when sick and disabled people lose benefits, was ordered to review its tests last summer after a Government report found its assessors were of unacceptably poor quality.

But the IT company claimed it was pulling out as its staff were increasingly coming under attack while carrying out their work.


23 Mar 2015

Benefit fraud lasted five years

A Flixton benefit cheat who falsely claimed more than £22,000 over a five year period has been handed a suspended prison sentence.

Alison Lett, 58, was convicted of dishonestly obtaining employment support allowance from the department for work and pensions and housing and council tax benefit from Trafford Council amounting to £22,202.

Lett had claimed employment support allowance, housing and council tax benefit on the basis that she lived alone.

Investigations showed that she had made a number of false representations to the department for work and pensions and Trafford Council, by failing to declare that her partner was living with her. This resulted in an overpayment of benefit between November 2008 and April 2013.

But after that it took nearly two years for the case to reach court.

She was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment, suspended for two years and placed under a curfew restriction for 16 weeks between 7pm and 7am.

In addition she was ordered to pay £400 towards the cost of the prosecution and pay a victim surcharge of £80.

Trafford Council and the DWP are recovering all of the monies that were obtained as a result of the offences from Lett.

Council counter fraud officers were alerted to the case as a result of information obtained from a partnership project with Greater Manchester Police, which indicated that she was living with her partner.


20 Mar 2015

Disabled blue badge frauds in Rotherham

Two private hire drivers have been prosecuted for illegally using Blue Badges for the disabled.

Thirty four year old Kamran Khan, from Sheffield, was fined £140 and ordered to pay costs of £300 together with a £20 victim surcharge, after he pleaded guilty by post to using his grandmother’s badge to park his car in a disabled bay on Don Street in January this year.

Rotherham Magistrates heard that his grandmother was not present and that he was undertaking personal business in Riverside House.

The court also fined Imran Khan £35 and ordered him to pay costs of £150 together with a £20 Victim Surcharge after he pleaded guilty by post to using his daughter's blue badge in December last year.

The court heard that the 38-year old, from Rotherham, parked on Percy Street, Rotherham, when his daughter was in school.

Following the cases, which were both heard on Friday March 13, the Council's Parking Services Manager, Martin Beard, said: "This is another good result. Blue badges are for use by people with genuine needs. They are not a free parking permit for family and friends."


19 Mar 2015

Benefit cheat lied on election form

A benefit cheat lied about a conviction when he ran as a Conservative councillor.

Michael Jefferson Fadaka, from Enfield, was handed an 11 month suspended jail sentence.

Fadaka stood as a Conservative candidate for Enfield Lock in May 2014 but police received a tip off that he had made false declarations on his nomination form.

Police found he had failed to declare a suspended prison sentence for wrongly claiming benefits in 2011, after he claimed thousands in housing benefits and income support whilst studying for a law degree.

Detective Inspector Howard Holt, of the special enquiry team, said: "Trust in the electoral process is paramount in a democratic society and when this system is undermined by an individual's misconduct that trust is diminished. I would urge anyone considering election to any public office to fully familiarise themselves with the rules around qualifications for nomination.

"In the run up to the general elections we will continue to work closely with the Electoral Commission and local authorities across London in a pro-active and preventative capacity to protect the integrity of the electoral process in London.”

Source and picture

18 Mar 2015

Thurrock recovers 71 homes in one year

Thurrock Council estimates four percent of its homes - 400 - are in the hands of fraudsters.

Councillor Lynn Worrall, who's in charge of housing, was speaking at an event to publicise a council campaign – Know a Cheat in your Street - aimed at tackling housing tenancy fraud.

Thurrock Council say they are taking a hard-hitting approach to ensuring deserving families and vulnerable people are not denied a council home by fraudsters.

Ms Worrall said: “Housing fraud is when a council home is let to a person who has either lied about their circumstances to jump the queue or someone is sub-letting their council house or flat and pocketing the profit.”

Over the last year 71 homes have been successfully recovered by the Council’s Housing Investigation Team saving it over £1.2 million and helping to ease the housing waiting list.

The team has also prevented six potentially fraudulent right-to-buy applications.

Ms Worrell added
We are making it clear to anyone who thinks they can cheat Thurrock residents that they will face serious consequences, including losing their homes, hefty fines, a criminal record and even prison thanks to the recent introduction of the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act.

Those committing housing fraud are denying deserving families the chance of a stable and affordable home.

Housing fraud may be seen to some as a crime that does no harm and has no victim, but with ever-increasing demands for council housing, cheats are leaving families waiting longer on the housing list.

If all these homes were freed up, they would help house those forced to live in emergency accommodation, which costs us millions.
Social housing fraud is the most wicked form of welfare fraud. The sums that can be saved are huge, but it's so much more than the money - needy families are being deprived of the chance to have a settled home that suits their needs.


17 Mar 2015

Jail for 15 year benefit fraud

A couple falsely claimed £90,000 in benefits to fund their dream wedding in Cuba which took place while they were on bail for previous fraud.

Tracey Dougherty, 38, and Stephen Turner, 60, claimed tens of thousands of pounds together over a period of 15 years.

Dougherty told officials she was a single mother of four to claim income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit while Turner claimed out-of-work benefits despite being a self-employed driving instructor.

The couple's deception was discovered when police searching their Wigan home found wedding invitations on which Ms Dougherty boasted about paying for guests' flights.

She was jailed for eight months while her husband was ordered to repay more than £2,000 following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

The court heard how Dougherty had been claiming taxpayers' money on the premise that she was a single parent since 2000.

She had in fact moved in with Turner who was also given government money as his mother's carer for a spell.

Alone the woman claimed more than £84,000 over 12 years, all the while living with her partner.

In August 2013 the couple were arrested when officials suspected they had been committing benefit fraud.

The following month, after denying living together, they married in the exotic setting while on bail, the conditions of which did not prevent them from travelling abroad.

They both pleaded guilty to falsely claiming benefits at Liverpool Crown Court. Council bosses have slammed their behaviour since.

Councillor Paul Kenny said: 'This couple lived a lavish lifestyle at the expense of the local taxpayer. At a time when people are struggling to make ends meet, this kind of behaviour will no doubt frustrate those footing the bill. Benefits are there for people who need them, not for those who want to subsidise their income and pay for expensive holidays.'

Source with pictures

16 Mar 2015

Mother jailed for repeated benefit fraud

A mother of two from Dudley has been jailed for seven months for fiddling nearly £67,000 in benefits.

It was the second time Siobhan Lane, aged 34, had been caught working a benefits scam, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told.

Judge Peter Barrie was told she was ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community for the first fraud, which was carried out between July 2001 and August 2002.

She pocketed money from the second fraud by claiming over a nine year period she was a single parent when she was living with her partner.

It was serious offending, said the judge, as he ruled an aggravating feature in the case was the previous conviction for benefit fraud.

The court was told Lane, of Wellfield Gardens, had claimed income support and housing and council tax benefits she was not entitled to, between October 2004 and January 2012.

But she was rumbled when the Department of Work and Pensions were tipped off about what was going on, the judge was told.

You might think they might check up on a previous offender's claims. But no.

Lane admitted failing to notify the department of a change in her circumstances and the judge said only a prison sentence was appropriate for her offending.

The court was told Lane’s partner had used her address as his own when seeking employment, when insuring his car and on bank and financial statements.

Surveillance carried out by investigators from the department also confirmed the couple were living together.