Suspended sentence for benefit cheat

By Nigel Slater Thursday 14 February 2013 Updated: 18/02 14:00

A PERSHORE woman has been given a suspended jail sentence after she illegally claimed thousands of pounds in benefits.

Julie Fox, of Maytree Estate in Lower Moor, received total payments of more than £28,000 in tax payers money despite having £70,000 in the bank which she failed to disclose.

At a hearing at Worcester Magistrates Court the 47-year-old pleaded guilty to four charges of benefit fraud after it was found she had been paid £13,889 in Housing Benefit as well as £3,319 in Income Support, £4,916 in Job Seekers Allowance, £2,596 in Employment Support Allowance and £3,566 in Council Tax Benefit.

When interviewed, Ms Fox admitted to receiving inheritance payments of £20,619 in February 2008 and an additional £49,718 in the following September and did not disclosed the payments to Wychavon District Council or the Department for Work and Pensions. During this time she had continued to claim the benefits to which she was not entitled.

Ms Fox also failed to report changes in her circumstances and falsely completed application forms in which she did not confirm to be a beneficiary of inheritance payments.

The case was later adjourned by District Judge Cadbury until Wednesday, February 6 so a full pre-sentence report could be carried out.

Ms Fox's solicitor said she had struggled to cope following the death of her parents, was previously in a long-term abusive relationship and became dependent on alcohol as a result of suffering from anxiety and depression.

But summing up, Judge Cadbury said the overpayment was very substantial and receiving inheritance payments of more than £70,000 was an amount which some could only dream of.

As the Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit charge was the most serious, Ms Fox was sentenced to three months in prison. For the other three offences Fox was sentenced to two months on each charge to run concurrently. The sentences were suspended for 18 months.

Ms Fox was also ordered to repay the full amount of £28,288 for which she claimed on illegal grounds. be the subject of a Supervision Order for the term of her suspended sentence and be required to attend the Freedom Programme at the Asha Women's Centre in Worcester.

If Ms Fox re-offends or is in breach of the order during those 18 months, Judge Cadbury stated she would be given a prison sentence.

Nick Jefferies, head of South Worcestershire Revenues and Benefits Shared Services at Wychavon District Council, said: "We consider benefit fraud to be a serious matter and this case sends a clear message that if you try to cheat on benefits you will get caught."

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