A ST NEOTS man was sentenced to four months in prison for benefit fraud.

Roy O'Dell, of Squires Court, Eaton Socon, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to 10 charges of benefit fraud covering a decade - between 2001 and 2011.

Huntingdon Magistrates' Court was told last Tuesday (August 23) that O'Dell had made claims for income support, pension credit and Council Tax benefit since 2001, and stated that he was unemployed throughout that period.

O'Dell also claimed money towards payment of his mortgage interest.

But Nick Jennings, prosecuting for Huntingdonshire District Council and the DWP, told the court that a tip-off from a member of the public in 2010 indicated that O'Dell ran a business from his home address.

An investigation revealed that O'Dell worked as a contractor for a newspaper distributor and had done since 2001.

Further enquiries showed that O'Dell had been paid between £500 and £600 per week between 2002 and 2009, receiving payments totalling £230,000 for the services he provided.

O'Dell admitted he had been working from 2001. It was calculated that he had been overpaid £34,837 in benefits.

Peter Vialls, for O'Dell, said that his client regretted his actions, had repaid all the money owed to HDC and had made arrangements to repay the DWP as well. He said his client, who had a number of medical issues, was of previous good character.

In sentencing O'Dell, magistrates said that although he had made full admissions, and assisted with the investigation, his offending was so serious that custody was the only suitable penalty.

O'Dell was sentenced to four months in prison and told that he would have to repay in full all the outstanding money.

Councillor Terry Rogers, whose executive responsibilities include revenues and benefits said: "The magistrates carefully considered the details of this case, and felt that a custodial sentence was the correct sentence for Mr O'Dell taking his age and other circumstances into account.

"It was clear to the court that this was a deliberate and long term fraud that cost the taxpayer almost £35,000. Whilst it is regrettable that anyone should lose their liberty, there has to be a clear message that fraud will not be tolerated, and there will be severe consequences when such cases are brought to trial."

INFORMATION: If you know of someone who is claiming benefit when they are not entitled to it, call the fraud hotline on 01480 388188 or e-mail fraud.team@huntingdonshire.gov.uk