Home owner claims more than £29,000 in housing benefits

CLAIMING more than £29,000 in housing benefit for a property she joint owned led to a suspended custodial sentence for a Newhaven woman.

Teresa Brunton, 62, of The Fairway, received £29,315.37 during a nine-year period dating back to 2002.

She pleaded not guilty to three counts of benefit fraud before Brighton court on May 15 but was found guilty following a trial on June 6 when magistrates said her version of events was ‘not credible’.

She was sentenced to 12 weeks in custody for each offence, suspended for two years due to her personal circumstances and previous good character.

Costs of £390 must be paid to Lewes District Council along with the amount she fraudulently claimed.

The council charged her for dishonestly completing three housing benefit claim forms declaring a liability to pay rent to a landlady.

These offences came to light during a data matching exercise which showed that she was the joint owner of the property she was claiming benefit for.

Cllr James Page, Leader of the Council and Lead Councillor for Finance and Resources, said: ”This sentence shows that the courts take high value fraud seriously and prison sentences can be issued where appropriate.”

Lewes District Council’s anti fraud section investigated more than 170 cases of suspected benefit fraud last year.

Many were carried out in partnership with the Department for Work and Pensions.

Where fraud is established, the council always considers prosecuting, in order to protect public funds and stop further abuse of the benefits system.

It encourages the public to identify fraudulent cases by calling its Fraud Hotline on 01273 484067. This is a 24-hour answer machine.

You could also call the council’s Investigation Section on 01273 484065.

Alternatively e-mail fraud.section@lewes.gov.uk.

All calls are treated with strict confidentiality.