FENLANDER: 18 prosecutions for benefit fraud in nine months - and council looks to claw back further �250k

EIGHTEEN people from Fenland have been successfully prosecuted for benefit fraud over the past nine months - and more prosecutions are in the pipeline.

Fenland District Council’s fraud investigation team has also identified nearly �250,000 in overpaid social security benefits – money which it is actively seeking to claw back.

The council is urging people to help it continue to crack down on offenders by reporting any individuals they suspect of making false claims.

In one of the latest cases that FDC has taken to court, Tracey Gray from Wisbech was given a nine-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, after admitting falsely claiming more than �55,000 in housing benefit and Council Tax benefit. She was also ordered to undertake 200 hours of unpaid community work.

Gray had failed to declare her change in circumstances after receiving an inheritance of nearly �139,000 in 2004. She told investigators that she didn’t declare the money because she was “protecting her future”.

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Councillor Kit Owen, FDC’s portfolio holder responsible for benefits, said: “The thorough investigations and tough action we have taken over the past year underline our determination to use every means at our disposal to go after anyone who tries to cheat the system.

“We will continue to do that and we need the public to help us identify the cheats.

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“The vast majority of benefit claimants are honest and claim only what they are entitled to but the dishonest ones give them all a bad name. They also take away money that should be spent on those in genuine need.”

Failure to inform the council about changes in circumstances, such as starting work or not declaring a partner moving in, are among the most common offences.

The council is also targeting people who fraudulently claim Council Tax single person discount when they are not the only person over 18 in the household.

FDC’s continuing efforts to root out the cheats is part of a national pattern. Last month the charity Crimestoppers and the Department of Work and Pensions launched a joint campaign to fight benefit fraud, which is estimated to cost taxpayers more than �1billion a year.

• If you suspect someone is committing benefit fraud, you can call FDC in complete confidence 24 hours a day, seven days a week, on 01354 622589, e-mail fraud@fenland.gov.uk or write to The Assurance Team at Fenland District Council, PO Box 60, County Road, March, Cambs PE15 8NQ.

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