Belper benefits cheat swindled £10,000

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A benefits cheat who failed to declare she was living with her partner swindled more than £10,000 from the taxpayer.

Paula McDonnell, of Knowl Avenue, Belper admitted failing to declare a change in her circumstances relating to her housing benefit and income support claims in that that she was living with her husband who was working full time.

She pleaded guilty to one charge of benefit fraud between January 2012 and April 2013 at Derby Magistrates and was sentenced to carry out a 12 month Community Order including 100 hours of unpaid work and pay £100 costs and a £60 surcharge.

McDonnell initially made a claim for Housing and Council Tax benefit in December 2011. At the time she was in receipt of Income Support, which is a passported benefit, meaning that she automatically qualified to receive Housing and Council Tax Benefit.

John McCann, Counsel, prosecuting on behalf of the Crown Prosecution Service said she had been overpaid £4,121 in Housing Benefit, £1,218 in Council Tax Benefit and £4,708 in Income Support all of which she will have to pay back in full.

The council was alerted to the fraud by an anonymous phone call to the Benefits Fraudline. The Council’s Benefits Investigation Unit started a joint investigation with the Department for Work and Pensions Fraud Investigation Service.

Substantial evidence was gathered and sent to an independent adjudicator who decided that her claim to benefits was fraudulent and that she had been overpaid state benefits.

In April 2013 she was invited into Amber Valley Borough Council’s offices to be interviewed under caution, on tape. She admitted to dishonestly claiming state benefits.

Councillor Stuart Bradford, Leader of Amber Valley Borough Council, said: “This is another example of someone claiming money that is not rightfully theirs. Benefit cheats take money intended for the most vulnerable in our society and the public, quite rightly get angry about such behavior. With the public’s support we are closing in on and catching these individuals.”

Mark Griffiths, Benefits Manager at Amber Valley Borough Council said: “This was a substantial fraud, taking place over two years and had it not been for an anonymous allegation could have continued for several more years. We hope this prosecution sends out a clear message that we will work closely with our partners to take action against anyone who tries to cheat and steal from the public purse.”