Benefit cheat dodges prison sentence

PUBLISHED: 10:09 06 December 2011

A MELBOURN benefit cheat has pleaded guilty to making false claims totalling £12,482 and will carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, narrowly avoiding a prison sentence.

Suzanne Brooker, 51, received the punishment after pleading guilty at Cambridge Magistrates Court to six charges of dishonestly making false statements to obtain benefit from South Cambridgeshire District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

The Beeches resident was rumbled after SCDC’s investigators checked information held by other government departments - uncovering a significant amount of banked money.

Brooker had not declared the cash when making several applications for Housing Benefit and Income Support from December 2007 making them invalid.

During an investigation by the district, and the Department for Work and Pensions, Mrs Brooker was interviewed under caution and it was found that she had been overpaid £11,605 of Housing and Council Tax Benefit and £877 Income Support.

She was sentenced to two months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.

Brooker has also been ordered to pay costs of bringing the case to court – totalling £620 – and instructed to repay the overpaid benefits.

The majority of the benefits had been repaid before the Court hearing.

Cllr Simon Edwards, SCDC’s finance chief, said: “On some occasions we rely on members of the public to report their suspicions of benefit fraud, and I would encourage residents to continue to do this, but our investigators also have other clever ways of snaring the minority who try and cheat the system. “People committing benefit fraud should be aware that one way, or another, they will be caught and I hope this case sends a clear message to them. Benefits are important to support people in society who are in real need, but we are closing the net on people making false claims and they will pay a heavy price.”

People who suspect benefit fraud can report it by calling 0800 7311892 or by visiting the authority’s website at www.scambs.gov.uk/benefitfraud.

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