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“Although the vast majority of people who claim benefits are honest, those who do claim benefit they are not entitled to are stealing from taxpayers. It’s estimated that between £900 million to £1 billion is claimed from public funds and spent by benefit thieves every year. That’s money that could have been spent on vital services, including nurses, teachers, road improvements and more. “If you are caught committing benefit fraud, the penalties can be severe. They include having to pay the money back, prosecution, a criminal record, a fine, losing your benefit for up to 13 weeks, and even a prison sentence. “These recent cases demonstrate how important it is to make sure any housing or council tax benefit application is right, and that you tell the council straightaway if anything in your life changes, which could affect the amount of benefit you’re entitled to.”The prosecutions were:
- Twenty-five-year-old Zoë Morgan, previously of Oakenfield in Lichfield, pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances to Lichfield District Council and the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP). Because she did not tell the council and the DWP that her partner had been living with for nearly three years, she was overpaid £11,186 housing and council tax benefit, and £7,163 income support. On top of repaying the money, which comes to £18,349, Zoë Morgan was sentenced to an 18 month community supervision order, 40 hours unpaid work, and ordered to pay £100 costs.
- Joanne Boyer, 39, of Boathouse Field in Lichfield, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances in her housing and council tax benefit claim. Because she did not tell the council that she had started doing extra work, and was earning more than she had declared, Joanne Boyer was overpaid £1,890 housing and council tax benefit. On top of paying this back, she was sentenced to a one year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £200 costs.
- Victoria O’Doherty, 32, previously of Horner Avenue in Fradley, pleaded guilty to two offences of dishonestly making a false representation in her housing benefit claim. The court heard that she did not tell the council that her daughter was related to her landlord, and as a result received £7,405 in housing benefit that she was not entitled to, which she is repaying. Victoria O’Doherty was sentenced on 26 January to a 12 month supervision order and ordered to pay £325 costs.
- Dawn Prentice, 37, previously of Spring Terrace in Chasetown, pleaded guilty to two charges of failing to notify the council and the DWP of a change in her circumstances. Because she failed to declare that her partner lived with her for around six months in 2008, she was overpaid £3,588 in housing and council tax benefit and £9,205 in income support – a total of £12,793, which is being repaid. The court sentenced Dawn Prentice to a community order, a curfew between 9pm and 6am, and ordered her to £200 towards court costs.
- Robert Myatt, 34, of Bells Lane in Burntwood, pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to give prompt notification of a change of circumstances. The court heard that Robert Myatt became self-employed in October 2009. This was only discovered in August 2010, after the council reviewed his claim. As a result of his actions, the council overpaid Mr Myatt £ 3,514 housing and council tax benefit, which is being repaid. He was fined £65, and ordered to pay £310 costs.
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