By Ian Dipple 03/09 Updated: 03/09 14:57
A MAN who fraudulently claimed over £20,000 in benefits despite having too much money to be entitled to do so has been spared jail.
Magistrates told Paul Lee they had been considering a prison sentence after he admitted four charges of falsely claiming over £9,559 in Jobseeker's Allowance, more than £8,236 in Housing Benefit and over £2,336 in Council Tax Benefit between June 2007 and September 2010 by failing to declare he held capital above the prescribed limits.
People are only entitled to claim certain benefits if they hold less than a certain amount in savings and other investments.
At a hearing at Redditch Magistrates' Court last Wednesday (August 29) the 55-year-old of Salters Lane was sentenced to a 12-month community order with a requirement to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £100 towards prosecution costs.
Magistrates said they had been considering a custodial sentence as the offences were 'very serious' but had decided to spare him jail after considering a probation report, his early guilty plea, the fact it was a first time offence and he had paid all the money back.
The fraud was uncovered by the Department of Work and Pensions through a process called data matching - where different data sources are cross-referenced and anomalies investigated. Redditch Borough Council was then brought in to uncover the full extent of the fraud.
A spokesman for Redditch Borough Council said: "This case again demonstrates the importance of declaring true circumstances when claiming benefit and reporting any changes as they take place.
"Failure to do so will result in having to repay any benefit claimed incorrectly and can lead to a criminal record."
Anyone wanting to report a suspicion of benefit fraud should send an email with as much detail as possible to email@example.com or call the Investigation Team on 01527 534011.
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