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Mendip fraud team gets tough on benefit cheats

Mendip Council : 30 April, 2009  (Company News)
Anti-fraud team at Mendip Council have caught benefit system fraudsters who have attempted to gain 100,000 pounds illegally.
Benefit fraudsters in Mendip have been captured after trying to cheat the system of nearly £100,000.

These are the latest figures for the past year from Mendip District Council which show that the council's fraud and legal teams successfully prosecuted seven people who fraudulently received more than £73,000 of overpayment in housing and council tax benefit.

The council was also successful in ensuring a further seven people received formal cautions, again for fraudulently claiming more than £17,000 worth of benefit.

These latest figures come in the month when the council successfully prosecuted a Glastonbury man for fraudulently claiming more than £24,000 of housing and council tax benefit.

At Frome Magistrates Court last Wednesday, the 49-year-old pleaded guilty to failing to tell the council that his circumstances had changed and failing to give the council accurate information about his financial situation which would have affected his benefit entitlement. It meant that he was able to dishonestly claim £24,481.41 in benefits.

His case has now been adjourned for a probation report until May 20 when he is expected to be sentenced at Frome Magistrates Court.

Another of Mendip council's most notable successes also came just months ago after three years of work and appeals by the customer involving a disputed overpayment of more than £20,000 in housing benefit.

Chris Atkinson, the council's group manager for access to services, which includes council tax and benefits, said: "We have a very active fraud team at the council which treats this kind of criminal behaviour very seriously. I hope this latest prosecution sends out a strong message that we are working hard to catch those cheating the system and will take action against them.

"It must be stressed though, that out of the thousands of people claiming benefit, only a small minority try to fraudulently claim more money than they are entitled to, and I would urge anyone who suspects a fraudster to report it to the council so we can fully investigate."

Within Mendip District Council is an active anti-fraud team which investigates all cases of suspected housing or council tax benefit fraud.

Legal action will be taken where appropriate to obtain a conviction and recover any fraudulent overpayment.

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