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Almost £100,000 of benefit fraud uncovered in Lichfield and Burntwood

Almost £100,000 of benefit fraud has been uncovered by Lichfield District Council.

The local authority has been behind six prosecutions since July this year.

On July 24 at Stafford Crown Court, 47-year-old Mark Thomas, of Stowe Street in Lichfield, pleaded guilty to one charge of dishonestly making a false declaration, and two charges of dishonestly failing to promptly report a change of circumstances, which affected his entitlement to a number of benefits.

The court heard that Thomas started a job in September 2009 but did not tell either Lichfield District Council or the Department for Work and Pensions. As a result, he was overpaid £18,159 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and council tax support, plus £17,187 in income support.

On top of repaying the money, Thomas was sentenced to six months imprisonment, suspended for 24 months, a 12 month supervision order and 120 hours unpaid work.

At Stafford Magistrates’ Court on August 6, 77-year-old Derek Parker, of Verdi Court in Lichfield, pleaded guilty to one charge of dishonestly failing to declare a change of circumstances and two charges of dishonestly making a false statement in connection with his claim for housing and council tax benefit.

The court heard Parker failed to disclose that he had capital in excess of the prescribed limit, and was not qualified for any of the benefit payments he received. As a result of his actions, he was overpaid £11,004 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and council tax support.

Parker was told to repay the money, fined £750 and ordered to pay costs of £750 plus £75 victim surcharge – a total of £1,525.

On September 9 at Burton Magistrates’ Court, 45-year-old Andrew Lankester, of Forrester Close in Fradley, pleaded guilty to two charges of making a false statement or representation with a view to claiming benefit.

The court was told how Lankester failed to disclose that he held capital in excess of the prescribed limit and that his claim was fraudulent from the outset. Had his total capital been declared he would have had no entitlement to housing and council tax benefit.

As a result of his actions he was overpaid £4,437 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and council tax support – money he must pay back. Lankester was also fined £500 and ordered to pay costs of £750 plus £25 victim surcharge – a total of £1,275.

One September 15, 36-year-old Fletcher Machila, of Cedar Road in Burntwood, pleaded guilty at Burton Magistrates’ Court to one charge of making a false representation and three charges of failing to promptly declare a change in circumstances, in connection with a claim to jobseekers allowance, housing and council tax benefit.

The court heard that Machila failed to report to either Lichfield District Council or the Department for Work and Pensions that he started work in July 2012. He also failed to report that his wife started work in October 2012.

As a result of his actions he was overpaid £6,659. On top of repaying the obtained money, he was sentenced to 12 months supervision, 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay £85 costs and £60 victim surcharge.

On September 24 at Cannock Magistrates’ Court, 65-year-old David Wiggin, of Scott Close in Lichfield, pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly making a false declaration in connection with his claim to housing and council tax benefit.

The court heard that Mr Wiggin received a private pension throughout the period of his claim, but this, along with the account into which it was paid, had never been declared.

As a result of his actions, Mr Wiggin was overpaid £13,724 over eight years.

On top of repaying the fraudulently obtained money, he was given a 12 month community order with supervision. Mr Wiggin was also fined £75 and ordered to pay £450 costs plus £60 victim surcharge, a total of £585.

At Cannock Magistrates’ court on September 24, 67-year-old Linda Jenkins, of Edwards Road in Chasetown, pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly making a false representation in connection with her claim to housing benefit and council tax benefit.

The court heard how Jenkins failed to declare her total capital, which was in excess of the prescribed limit, meaning she was not entitled to either housing or council tax benefit. As a result she was overpaid £23,672 over four years.

Jenkins was sentenced to 60 hours unpaid work with a 12 month supervision order. She was also ordered to pay costs of £450 and a £60 victim surcharge. Jenkins has fully repaid the overpaid benefit to Lichfield District Council.

Councillor Chris Spruce said: “We are committed to making sure that housing and council tax benefit goes to where it is most needed.

“It is totally unacceptable for people to withhold information that can affect their entitlement. This is fraud and we take this very seriously.

“These six cases show just how vital it is to be honest in your declaration when claiming support from benefit, and to tell us about any changes to your circumstances straightaway.

“If you are claiming housing or council tax benefit and have a change in circumstance, such as an increase in earnings or a change to your tax credits, you must tell us about it immediately.”

To report a change in circumstances, call Lichfield District Council on 01543 308900.

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