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26 Jul 2017

Two years' jail for £250k benefit fraud

A benefit fraudster who lied to the authorities for 11 years to cash in on nearly £250,000 by pretending she did not live with her partner has been jailed for two years.

Lisa Cox lied to Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officers in numerous assessments and gave false addresses for her other half, Matthew Gadbury, who owned a second home in Kent. The Kent chalet meant that Cox was no longer entitled to benefits including her £37.51-per-week employment support allowance, but she did not declare she was living with Mr Gadbury and continued to receive the money for over a decade.

Jim Olphert, prosecuting, said: 'The fraudulent claims began on December 5, 2003, the first date that Mr Gadbury was in residence with Miss Cox. During her time claiming benefits she had to re-apply and be re-assessed for them. Each time she signed a declaration on change of circumstances whereby she would notify the DWP immediately of any change.'

He said Cox, from Buckland, Surrey, who stood in the dock on crutches and had previously been wheelchair-bound, had lied at assessment meetings with the DWP. 'Miss Cox gave an account whereby Mr Gadbury had not been permanently residing with her,' he said. Throughout Miss Cox gave a number of other addresses that Mr Gadbury lived at.' He said the addresses were all investigated by the DWP which found that these claims had been lies.

Cox, 42, admitted six counts of dishonesty by failure to report a change of circumstances at Guildford Crown Court.

But defence barrister Rupert Hallowes claimed Mr Gadbury, who sat in the public gallery with their two grown-up children, should have been in the dock beside her.

He said: 'The DWP decided that there was no underlying entitlement to [employment support allowance] because Mr Gadbury owned a chalet in Kent.'

The chalet was deemed to be worth £16,000, which ends entitlement to the benefit Cox was receiving. But Mr Hallowes argued that the chalet had fallen into disrepair and was worth less.

He said: 'It's that property that disentitled her to that money. The man who must take responsibility beside her sits in court with their two children, well aware that she may get a sentence in prison. This was a legitimate claim in the outset. There is no doubt in 2013 she was very unwell indeed and that may be why she didn't make the declaration she should have done.'

In response, Judge Robert Fraser said: 'Looking back over, the period she failed to notify of change is really 11 years.'

Sentencing Cox to two years behind bars, he added: 'As you know, the amount of money involved here is very significant indeed. On a weekly or monthly basis it may not seem very much but as I was saying before it was over nearly 11 years. You made a very determined attempt to avoid liability. I have thought long and hard about this. I would try if I could to suspend he sentence in your case but I would be failing the public.'

He also handed her a compensation order of £5,000 which was found when Cox was arrested.

A DWP spokesperson said: 'Only a small number of people try to commit benefit fraud, but cases like this show how our fraud investigators are working hard to catch those that do. This case should serve as a warning that people convicted of benefit fraud can face prison and will have a criminal record.'

Source with pictures

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