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Couple caught in £15k benefit fraud
A BENEFIT fraudster wrongly claimed more than £15,000 after failing to tell authorities her cage fighting boyfriend had moved into her council house.
Claire Drury, 30, and her partner Colin McDiarmaid, 46, of Sweyne Avenue, Westcliff, worked together so Drury could claim thousands of pounds in employment support, jobseekers allowance and housing and council tax benefits she wasn’t entitled to.
Drury failed to tell Southend Council that McDiarmaid had moved into her property, in Windemere Road, so received £6,562.78 in housing benefit between May 2010 and June 2012, and £1,688.63 in council tax benefit between May 2010 and July 2012.
She also failed to tell them McDiarmaid was a self employed carpet fitter and a cafe fighter for Ultimate Warrior Limited.
Southend Magistrates’ Court heard the couple had an “on-off”
A lengthy investigation by Southend Council also found she was handed £4,212.40 in employment support allowance and £3,056.65 in jobseeker allowance, which she was not entitled to.
At a hearing at Southend Magistrates’ Court, Drury admitted four counts of money laundering – three of cashing cheques worth £702.27 in August, September and October 2011, and one of cashing a cheque of £40.10 on October 2012.
She also admitted two counts of failing to notify a change of circumstances, and three counts of making dishonest representations to obtain benefit.
Meanwhile, McDiarmaid admitted two counts of dishonestly failing to give prompt notice of change of circumstances to obtain benefits, between May 2010 and July 2012.
They were both sentenced to four months in prison, suspended for a year, and ordered to complete 180 hours of unpaid work.
They also both had to pay £206.03 costs and £80 victim surcharge.
McDiarmaid was already subject to a suspended sentence and his latest sentence will run consecutively.
He was also ordered to go on a thinking skills programme.
Southend Council’s corporate director for corporate services, Sally Holland, said: “Benefits are for those in genuine need. Benefit fraud is wrong, can have an impact on council services and is something we will always investigate as we have a duty to protect public funds.
“We take any attempt to abuse the benefits system very seriously and those who do flout the system may find themselves in court facing a fine, repayment and possibly imprisonment.”
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