A business owner and parents of young children have been given tough sentences after their involvement in benefits frauds.
Four Bedford people have been sentenced after stealing a combined £112,387 in Council Tax Benefit, Housing Benefit and Income Support, in separate cases.
Carleen Cox, 32, and Phillip Hicks, 39, formerly of Mile Road, Bedford and now of Manor Road, Wootton appeared at Luton Crown Court on Wednesday, January 29.
The court heard the couple stole over £52,000 in Housing and Council Tax Benefit and Income Support over five years by failing to declare there were living together and that Hicks was working full time.
Carleen Cox pleaded guilty to a total of 17 charges of dishonestly making false representations. Philip Hicks pleaded guilty to 17 charges for dishonestly causing or allowing and making false statements in order for Carleen Cox to obtain Housing, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support, by failing to declare that they were living together.
As a result, from June 2007 to September 2012, they stole £15,276.39 in Income Support, £32,528.10 in Housing Benefit and £4,350.35 in Council Tax Benefit.
The fraud was uncovered when a workmate of Hicks reported the offence. The Court heard that Hicks regularly bragged about having a ‘rich week’ when Cox received a benefit payment and had boasted they had ‘got away with it’ when Cox was cautioned for an earlier offence. The court heard that Hicks confessed to the offence after being arrested on suspicion of fraud.
Both were sentenced to 10 months in prison. The couple had asked to be spared prison sentences because they had young children. However, in sentencing the judge said: “You both have behaved in a thoroughly dishonest way. I have carefully considered the human rights for your children, you are both sentenced to 10 months imprisonment for each charge to run concurrent, and you should reflect on what sort of an example you have set your children.”
Abdul Ahad, 42, of Old Ford End Road, Bedford, appeared at Luton Magistrates Court on Monday, January 27. Mr Ahad pleaded guilty to 4 counts of dishonestly making false representations in order to obtain Housing and Council Tax Benefit.
The Court heard that Mr Ahad claimed he received the minimum wage as an employee of the Hoi Tin Take Away at 2a Cleveland Street, Kempston. However, he actually owned the property and ran the business.
The court heard that between March 2009 and April 2013, Mr Ahad stole £18,603.44 in Housing Benefit and £5,270.48 in Council Tax benefit.
Mr Ahad was sentenced to 12 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months. He was also ordered to repay all of the money stolen as well as £200 costs and a £80 Victim Surcharge. He was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Momina Banu, 39, of Rutland Road, Bedford, appeared at Luton Crown Court on Friday, January 24 and pleaded guilty to 6 counts of dishonestly making false representations to the Department for Work and Pensions and Bedford Borough Council.
The court heard Mrs Banu has illegally claimed Housing, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support, by failing to declare that she held £26,000 in undeclared bank accounts. The fraud was revealed when data from HMRC showed she was receiving interest on the savings.
The court heard that between June 2007 and April 2012 Momina Banu stole £19,348.72 in Housing Benefit, £5,096.37 in Council Tax benefit and £11,913.43 in Income Support.
Mrs Banu was handed a 21 month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, along with a curfew order for 4 months preventing her from leaving her home between 8pm and 7am. The terms of the curfew mean that she will have to wear an electronic tag. She was ordered to repay all of the money stolen as well as £100 in costs.
Councillor Shan Hunt, Portfolio Holder for Revenues and Benefits, commented: “Benefit payments are there for those who genuinely need them and we will vigorously pursue those who break the law and claim what they are not entitled to.
“These cases send a strong message that anyone who tries to cheat the system in Bedford Borough will be caught and prosecuted. They also highlight the important role members of the public can play in helping us bring benefit cheats to justice.”