Woman convicted of fraud after transferring £75k inheritance to avoid debts

The sentencing of Myles Stainton-Fitzgerald, of Tavern Street, Stowmarket, has been adjourned at Ipswich Crown Court.

Barbara Bentley was convicted of fraud at Ipswich Crown Court - Credit: GREGG BROWN

A Hadleigh woman accused of transferring a £75,000 inheritance days before she filed for bankruptcy to avoid paying debts has been convicted by a jury

Before Ipswich Crown Court was 59-year-old Barbara Bentley, of Yeoman Crescent, Hadleigh.

She had pleaded not guilty to fraudulently disposing of property by making a gift while declared bankrupt but was convicted by a jury on Wednesday. She will be sentenced on August 23.

During her trial the court heard that Bentley was declared bankrupt on March 24, 2017, after submitting an online application the day before saying she was unable to pay debts totalling around £27,000 to Babergh District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). 

Leila Chaker, prosecuting for the Insolvency Service, said that 10 days prior to the application, Bentley transferred £75,000 into a bank account in the name of her son. 

The court heard that Bentley had received an inheritance of £80,769 in 2014 following the death in 2011 of an aunt in Ontario, Canada who had not left a will.

Giving evidence, Bentley said she had never met her aunt, but had enjoyed a good relationship with her, speaking two or three times a year over the phone. 

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She said she found out about her aunt's death when she received a phone call from her aunt's friend, and there was a suggestion that some money had been left to her son who was aged around 16 in 2011. 

Bentley said it was her aunt's wish that the money should go to her son. 

Asked by her barrister, Oliver Haswell, why she hadn't paid back the money she owed with the inheritance, Bentley replied: "It wasn't my money."

She said she hadn’t given the money to her son when it came through in 2014 when he was 19 because he wasn't very good with money.

Shown a document describing her as the sole beneficiary of the inheritance, she accepted the money legally belonged to her but insisted her aunt wanted the money to go to her son. 

The court heard Bentley owed £11,786 to Babergh District Council for housing benefit overpayment and a further £3,600 to the authority for council tax arrears.

She also owed £11,539 to the DWP for job seekers' allowance benefit overpayment. 

The court heard that her debts to Babergh District Council were written off while the debt of £11,539 to the DWP was paid back in September 2017.