A SCUNTHORPE woman who committed benefit fraud to the tune of more than £85,000 was this morning sentenced at Grimsby Crown Court.
Sarah Boyd was given a six month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, and told to do 200 hours unpaid work. She was also given a six month curfew order from 6pm to 6am – the biggest given for a benefit fraud case.
She claimed benefits with North Lincolnshire Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). She applied for housing benefit and council tax benefit with the council in October 2000 declaring that she was a single parent in receipt of Income support that she claimed from the DWP.
During the next 10 years, she completed numerous review forms and always declared that she was a single parent. But in 2010, she informed the council that her partner had moved in to live with her from April 2010.
Later in the year, the council received an allegation that Sarah was working and so an investigation began.
This found that her partner may have moved into the property earlier than had been declared. Consequently, the council contacted the DWP and a joint investigation started.
Significant evidence was gathered as part of the investigation and showed that her partner was financially linked to Sarah and her address. Officers interviewed her and she eventually admitted to living with her partner since April 2002.
Her income support was cancelled back to 1 April 2002 resulting in an overpayment of £52,616 and her housing and council tax benefit were also cancelled resulting in overpayments of £27,380 and £5,319 respectively. The total amount she unlawfully claimed was £85,315.
Sarah will be expected to repay all the money that she has defrauded from the council and action will be taken to recover it. She has already started repaying the overpaid council tax.
Councillor Neil Poole, cabinet member for policy and resources at North Lincolnshire Council, said:
“This is one of the biggest benefit fraud cases we’ve dealt with. To claim money that you are not entitled to is committing fraud, and to do it for so long (ten years) at the expense of law-abiding taxpayers is a disgrace.
“We work hard with the Department for Work and Pensions to catch benefit cheats and this case demonstrates that we will stop at nothing to catch criminals and crack down on benefit fraud.”