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Benefit cheat, 23, ordered
to carry out unpaid work

13:19 03 October 2010

IPSWICH: A 23-year-old man is today faced with doing unpaid work after admitting failing to notify the borough council of a change of circumstances while claiming benefit.

South East Suffolk Magistrates Court heard Owen Cook, of Keats Crescent, Ipswich, did not inform the council his Job Seekers’ Allowance had ended in February 2009.

He continued to receive housing benefit for a further five months before a data matching exercise brought the case to the attention of the borough council’s benefit investigation team.

Cook failed to attend three separate invitations to an interview under caution with officers from the council where he could have submitted mitigating circumstances as to why he failed in his responsibility to advise of the change in his circumstances.

However, it was decided there was sufficient evidence for proceedings to be instigated against Cook for falsely claiming £1,488.

Magistrates ordered Cook to carry out 120 hours unpaid work in the community and pay £100 costs. He was also told the benefit overpayment must be repaid.

After the case, Peter Sawyer from the council’s investigation team said: “Although the overpayment was not a significant amount in comparison to some of the cases we have dealt with, it has resulted in this man receiving a criminal conviction.

“This is a situation that could have possibly been avoided if he had attended the interviews we invited him to and could have given his reasons for not telling the council about the changes in his circumstances. We may well have been able to deal with this without recourse to the magistrates court”.

Mr Cook added it is vital any changes in circumstances which could have an affect on anyone’s benefit claim be advised to the council at the earliest opportunity. People should not to rely upon any other government department to pass on the information.

If you know or suspect anyone of claiming Housing Benefit fraudulently please contact the Benefit Fraud Hotline on 01473-433999 or log on to the Ipswich Borough Council website and complete the anonymous fraud referral form found under “Benefit Fraud”.

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