Borough Council of Wellingborough

Taxi driver convicted of benefit fraud

Published Wednesday, 04 June 2014

A Wellingborough taxi driver has been sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for a year, after fraudulently claiming almost £4,000 in benefits.

Steven Cheeseman, 60, from Minerva Way, was working full time when he claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit.

This is the second time he has been convicted of benefit fraud offences, having previously been caught working whilst claiming back in 2005.

Wellingborough Council began investigations after information was received that Mr Cheeseman was working full time as a taxi driver with two local companies at a time when he was claiming benefits and declaring himself as unemployed.

When the information was confirmed, Mr Cheeseman was interviewed under caution by council officers and later charged to appear at Wellingborough Magistrates Court.

He pleaded guilty to three offences - two of dishonestly failing to notify the change of circumstances with his employment, and one of dishonestly furnishing a false document with a view to obtaining housing and council tax benefit.

He appeared in court on Monday 12 May and was sentenced to eight weeks in prison, suspended for twelve months, as well as 100 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £300 costs and an £80 victim surcharge.

Council leader Cllr Paul Bell said: "Mr Cheeseman's actions are completely unacceptable. He knew exactly what he was doing when he tried to cheat the benefits system, as he had done it before. The first time he was convicted he was given a fine but it obviously didn't put him off trying again. I hope that this time he realises how serious this is.

"When so many people are struggling financially, benefit fraud seems particularly unfair.

"The situation becomes even more significant because of the job he was carrying out at the time of the fraud. Taxi drivers are in a position of trust and the public have to know they are in safe and honest hands."

Wellingborough Council's taxi licensing policy states that a serious view will be taken regarding offences relating to dishonesty, and it is likely that Mr Cheeseman will be brought before a licensing committee, where he could have his licence revoked.

Mr Cheeseman had fraudulently claimed £2,914.84 housing benefit and £854.83 council tax benefit, making a total overpayment of £3,769.67. Wellingborough Council will pursue full recovery of the overpayment.