Prison sentence for £12,000 benefit cheat

Scales of Justice
Scales of Justice

A Bedford benefit cheat has been sentenced to 12 weeks in prison after pleading guilty to fraudulently accepting money he was not entitled to.

Darren Sweeney, 49, of Wheelwright House, Bedford, received £12,183.96 in Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support after

claiming benefits as a single man who had been signed off work sick.

However, Bedford Borough Council Investigators discovered Sweeney instead had a partner living with him, who was employed and providing financially for the upkeep of their home.

When questioned by Council Investigators, Sweeney admitted his partner had initially moved in with him following an operation he had on his knee.

Yet, by failing to declare this change in his circumstances to the Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, Sweeney continued receiving benefits that he was not entitled to.

Luton Magistrates considered a recommendation from the Probation Service that Sweeney be given a Community Punishment Order but decided the matter was so serious that immediate custody was warranted.

Following the verdict, Sweeney was escorted from the courthouse and taken directly to prison.

A Council spokesperson said: “This sentence is welcomed by Bedford Borough Council and demonstrates the consequences awaiting those who are, or are thinking about, fraudulently obtaining benefits, discounts or services from the Council.

“We hope this case will serve as a deterrent to anyone thinking of committing fraud and will make them reconsider; with these strict punishments in place the question is whether it’s really worth the risk.”

To report Council Tax, Social Housing and Blue Badge Fraud, call Bedford Borough Council on 0800 917 8491, email Fraud@Bedford.gov.uk, or complete a form online at www.bedford.gov.uk

For all other reports of fraud; including Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance or Disability Allowance call the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 854 440. Your call is free and confidential so you do not have to give your name or address. Lines are open Monday to Friday 8.00am to 6.00pm.

Online at: www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud

By Post: NBFH, PO Box 224, Preston PR1 1GP.