A record number of fraudsters targeting Bedford Borough Council have been prosecuted or cautioned in the past year.
Between 2014 and 2015, the council’s Fraud Investigations team successfully took action against 142 offenders - the highest number uncovered in Bedford Borough in a single year.
These cases resulted in the issue of 31 prosecutions, 62 cautions and 48 financial penalties.
A council spokeswoman said the more notable cases included the following;
- 16 months imprisonment for a man who stole more than £138,000 in benefits from the council and the Department for Work and Pensions by failing to declare that he owned a commercial property which he rented out
- 18 months imprisonment for a woman who stole £43,135 in benefits from the council after failing to declare savings and a property in Baghdad
- A fine of £20,000 was received and a further £16,000 confiscated from a woman who failed to declare her ownership of five properties
- A man was found guilty of Blue Badge Fraud and fined £855 and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work after it was discovered he was actually a passionate long-distance walker and a member of a Mountaineering Club.
- An £850 fine was issued to a man exaggerating his disability to trick the Council into awarding him a Blue Badge. During his disability assessment, the applicant took almost 4 minutes to walk 25 meters. However, when his assessment was finished, the individual was seen walking 24 metres back to his car in just 27 seconds
- A social housing tenant’s property was recovered after she vacated it to live elsewhere in privately rented accommodation but wanted to keep the Bedford property available for occasional visits to the area.
The spokeswoman said: “The Fraud Investigations team have done an outstanding job in stopping the thieves who abuse the benefits and housing system and steal public funds for their own selfish gain. The Council would like to thank everyone who has helped to bring these criminals to justice.
“The large number of cases identified by Bedford Borough Council show just how important checks and assessments are in ensuring that people genuinely in need of assistance and even housing within Bedford Borough receive it.”
The council is urging people to contact it if they suspect fraud.
Bedford Borough Council will investigate Council Tax, Social Housing and Blue Badge Fraud.
You can report Council Tax, Social Housing and Blue Badge Fraud to the council by calling 0800 917 8491, emailing Fraud@Bedford.gov.uk or completing a form at www.bedford.gov.uk
For all other reports of fraud, including Housing Benefit, Income Support, Jobseekers Allowance or Disability Allowance please contact the Department for Work and Pensions by calling 0800 854 440, Mondays to Fridays, between 8am and 6pm. You can make an online report at www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud or by writing to NBFH, PO Box 224, Preston PR1 1GP.