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Benefits Cheats

Three women will have to repay a total of £85,702.98 after a joint investigation by fraud investigators from Bedford Borough Council and Jobcentre Plus was carried out. Findings resulted in two women receiving suspended prison sentences at Bedford Magistrates’ Court, in August, over false benefit claims.  A third woman was sentenced to 200 hours unpaid work, and all three will be required to repay the money they fraudulently claimed.


In the first case, Tessa Cruddas aged 31 of The Risings, Bedford, failed to declare her partner, who works full-time, was living with her at their address. Suspicions were raised when a Bedford Borough Council Benefit Assessor noticed discrepancies in the information provided to the Council.  Following an investigation, Cruddas entered a guilty plea at Bedford Magistrates Court on the 2nd August 2011, after fraudulently claiming £5,302 in housing benefit, £1,624 in council tax benefit, £21,488 income support and £766 in job seekers allowance. She was ordered to pay back the over payments and was sentenced to 200 hours of unpaid work.


On the 29th August, Majorie Levy, 49 of Hartwell Drive, Kempston was sentenced after initially entering a ‘not guilty’ plea at an earlier hearing. She was eventually found guilty of failing to declare the father of her children was living with her and that he was working as a taxi driver.  By failing to declare her partner was resident, Levy fraudulently claimed £11,634 in housing benefit, £2,290 in council tax benefit, £4,908 in job seekers allowance and £2,504 in employment and support allowance.


After her trial at Bedford Magistrates court she was sentenced to 6 months imprisonment, however, this was suspended for 24 months.  She was also ordered to complete 300 hours of unpaid work.


The fraud was identified through the National Fraud Initiative which uses sophisticated data matching techniques to compare information about households from different sources to detect fraud.  


In the third case, Kimberley Paul, 26 of Barford Avenue, claimed she was single and living on her own and without work, which enabled her to falsely claim for housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support. In fact, she had married her husband in 2007 and she had been working since May 2006.


The Court heard that Paul, who entered a guilty plea at the hearing on 30th August, had received £17,855 in housing benefit, £2,731 in council tax benefit and £14,597 in income support before being found out in the joint investigation. She was sentenced to five weeks imprisonment, suspended for 12 months plus 200 hours of unpaid work and also ordered to pay back the amount fraudulently claimed.  This fraud also came to light as a result of discrepancies in the information provided to the Council.


Cllr Shan Hunt, Portfolio Holder for Revenues and Customer Services said: “I would like to congratulate Bedford Borough Councils’ fraud department and Jobcentre Plus for their work in catching these criminals. Benefit fraudsters cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds each year in false claims and take away money needed to pay for vital public services. It is extremely selfish of individuals to take advantage of people who work hard and pay their taxes whilst also having the means to support themselves. “


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