Woman escapes jail for £15k benefit fraud

A HUNTINGDON woman escaped jail after admitting cheating Huntingdonshire District Council out of more than £15,600 in benefits. Edith Howell, 49, of Stukeley Road, pleaded guilty at the town s magistrates court to four charges of benefit fraud between Ju

A HUNTINGDON woman escaped jail after admitting cheating Huntingdonshire District Council out of more than £15,600 in benefits.

Edith Howell, 49, of Stukeley Road, pleaded guilty at the town's magistrates' court to four charges of benefit fraud between June 2004 and February 2008.

She had claimed benefit as a lone parent for some years but, following a tip-off from a member of the public, an investigation revealed that her only son had not lived with her since 2004 and that, late in 2007, her partner had moved in with her.

As these changes had not been reported at the correct time, Howell was overpaid £15,634 housing benefit and Council Tax benefit between 2004 and 2008.


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Her solicitor, Michelle Cheatle, said Howell accepted that she had made false claims but said that she had now got herself sorted out, was in a stable relationship and in work, so she had already made efforts to repay the money she had claimed.

The court ordered Howell to complete 180 hours of unpaid work. Although the magistrates accepted that the amount of benefits falsely claimed would appear large to anyone, they did not believe it appropriate to impose a prison sentence because of Howell's previous good character, guilty plea and efforts to repay the council.

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At the same court, Viki Burke, 30, of Dryden Court, St Neots, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud. The court heard that she had made claims for housing benefit and Council Tax benefit when she became a single parent but continued to claim benefit after her husband had returned to her address.

An investigation followed a tip-off from a member of the public, and it was found that Burke had been overpaid £704.56 between September and December 2007. Burke was ordered to pay a fine of £65, compensation to the council for the overpayment and £100 costs.

Jillian Harlow, 46, of Viceroy Close, Eaton Socon, had earlier pleaded not guilty to a charge of benefit fraud but changed her plea to guilty at the hearing last week.

The court was told Harlow had failed to report that she and her former partner had received an inheritance, which was paid into bank accounts that had not been reported on her claims for benefit. She was overpaid £907.14 between December 2006 and May 2007.

Harlow received a 12-month conditional discharge, and was ordered to pay compensation to the council for the falsely claimed benefit as well as £150 costs.

Kevin Lambe, 40, of Duchess Close, Eaton Socon, failed to attend court to answer charges alleging fraudulent housing benefit claims for £840.

The Bbench heard that Lambe had made a claim to help with his rent when he was unemployed but he had subsequently found work and continued to claim benefit payments between August and November 2007.

The magistrates found the case against Lambe proved and imposed a £350 fine, compensation to the council, and £240 costs.

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