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Woman fiddled £22,000 benefits over four years
A DROITWICH woman who fraudulently claimed more than £22,000 in benefits has been handed a suspended jail term.
Melissa Ross claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit in relation to her rented property.
A joint investigation by Wychavon District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions discovered that from August 18, 2008, the 29-year-old had failed to declare she was living together with her partner at the same address.
Her partner was working while she claimed benefits. When interviewed, Ross, currently of Farriers Corner, Droitwich, admitted her partner was a regular visitor and that he stayed over on three nights a week and also at weekends.
The investigation resulted in total overpayments of £8,989.94 in income support and a total of £13,600.58 in housing benefit and council tax benefit, totalling £22,590.52.
The case was heard at Worcester Magistrates Court where Ross pleaded guilty to six charges of benefit fraud.
Sam Lamsdale, defending, said Ross was often in an on/off relationship with her partner and she thought he could stay up to three nights a week.
She said it was a case of her client burying her head in the sand and she now realised she should have reported it to the relevant agencies.
Ross was given a two-year suspended sentence of 49 weeks in custody for the six counts of benefit fraud to run concurrently, meaning she would serve 18 weeks. She was also given a two-year community service order, told to undertake 240 hours of unpaid work and must pay £100 in costs.
Ross will also have to fully repay all the benefits to which she was not entitled.
l An Evesham woman fraudulently claimed £5,170.48 in benefits after failing to tell authorities she was living with her partner.
Deborah Hanks, formerly Smith, of Mill Street, Evesham, claimed jobseeker’s allowance, housing benefit and council tax benefit as a single person in relation to a property that she rented in Common Road from 2009. But the 39-year-old hadn’t declared she was living with her partner and that they had married in June 2010.
Her husband was working while she was claiming benefits.
Hanks was given a 24-month conditional discharge at Worcester Magistrates Court and prosecutors were awarded £200 in costs. She will also have to fully repay all the benefits.
Anyone who is unsure about their benefit entitlement should call 01905 822744.