Benefit fiddlers netted tens of thousands

 Sarah Hickinbotham By Sarah Davies

 EIGHT people have appeared before magistrates accused of benefit fraud totalling nearly £100,000.

Yesterday’s prosecutions brought by the Department for Work and Pensions and local authorities have so far resulted in five convictions relating to fraud totalling more than £36,000.

Tara Roberts was given a 12-week custodial sentence, suspended for two years, a four-month curfew between 8pm and 7am and ordered to carry out 150 hours’ unpaid work after failing to tell DWP and Worcester City Council she was living with her boyfriend, Benjamin Jones.

Worcester Magistrates Court heard the 27-year-old, of Margaret Road, St John’s, Worcester, was overpaid by more than £20,000 over two and a half years in income support, housing and council tax benefit.

Her solicitor, David Ollivere, said the mother-of-three had claimed benefits entirely legitimately for a number of years and this offence was committed because “money was tight”.

Roberts had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

He added she was of previous good character and had already paid back £1,500, although it could take her 20 years to settle the debt.

 Susan Patrick, aged 42 of Lansdowne Walk, Worcester, received a two-year conditional discharge and was ordered to pay costs of £100 after she admitted failing to declare she had received a £29,000 inheritance.

Paul Stanley, defending, said his client, a single mother-of-three, had struggled financially for a long period and used the money to pay off debts, on her house and her children.

He added she was of previously good character.

Ian Woodward, of Compton Road, Worcester, admitted failing to declare a legacy of more than £31,000 left to him by his late mother, resulting in an overpayment of benefits amounting to more than £7,000 over nearly three years.

His solicitor Simon Deeley said the 57-year-old did not notify DWP and the city council of his inheritance because he had felt the money was not really his as his mother had intended it to be a deposit on a house, but being unemployed he was unable to obtain a mortgage.

Magistrates sentenced him to 150 hours unpaid work, £100 costs and he agreed to immediately pay £3,000 off his debt from his remaining £6,000 in savings.

Edwin Thomas, of Homestead, Droitwich, did not inform authorities he had returned to work while claiming benefits on the basis he was incapable of working because of arthritis. He was overpaid more than £2,500 in employment support allowance, housing and council tax benefit.

The 51-year-old’s solicitor, Amer Hussain, said his client, who pleaded guilty, was of previous good character.

He accepted he should have told authorities of his change in circumstances and was sorry for his actions. He was told to carry out 50 hours unpaid work and pay costs of £100.

Armando Gonsalves, of Lowesmoor, Worcester, also worked while claiming benefit and was sentenced to 100 hours’ unpaid work, as well as ordered to pay £100 costs.

He pleaded guilty to being overpaid more than £4,000 in Job Seekers’ Allowance and housing and council tax benefit after gaining employment on four occasions.

Amer Hussain, defending, said his client did not understand he was required to inform DWP and Worcester City Council when he found work and accepted it was a failure on his part.

Mr Hussain said the 40-year-old, who was of previously good character, was “sorry and remorseful”.