Fraudsters warned of clampdown
FRAUD-BUSTERS at Mid Suffolk council have vowed to get tough on benefit cheats after bringing to court their first prosecution. A claimant from Elmswell pleaded guilty by post to falsely claiming more than £3,700 of housing and council tax benefit.
By James Fraser
FRAUD-BUSTERS at Mid Suffolk council have vowed to get tough on benefit cheats after bringing to court their first prosecution.
A claimant from Elmswell pleaded guilty by post to falsely claiming more than £3,700 of housing and council tax benefit. He was sentenced in his absence after the court hearing at Bury St Edmunds.
An investigation into the false claim was triggered by the council's newly implemented anti-fraud controls.
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This revealed that although the claimant had acknowledged his wife's employment circumstances when making benefit claims, he failed to disclose his own employment.
The claimant consistently failed to alert the council of his change of circumstances despite several opportunities to do so and fraudulently claimed £3,757.77 of housing and council tax benefit over a five-year period.
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He was fined £500 and ordered to pay £75 costs.
The magistrates decided a financial penalty would be appropriate because of the voluntary repayment arrangements the offender had already made with the council.
Penny Otton, Mid Suffolk District Council leader, said: "Benefit fraud is simply not acceptable.
"Cheats are stealing from the public pocket and taking funds that should be going to community members who need and deserve them most."
Nick Woodhouse, benefit manager, added: "We hope that by actively pursuing prosecutions that are in the public interest, we are sending a clear warning to all those who are tempted to try to falsely claim public funds.
"Mid Suffolk District Council would urge all residents to claim benefits they are entitled to, but will aggressively pursue those who make deliberately false and misleading claims.
"We operate a benefit fraud hotline on 0800 085 7214. People can report suspected cheats in total confidence."
If anybody would like to inform the council of a change in their circumstances, they can call 01449 727287 or 01449 727397 between 8.30am and 5 pm, Monday to Friday.