A Wellingborough couple has been sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for two years, after fraudulently claiming more than £40,000 in benefits.
Sarah Patel, 32, of The Banks, Wellingborough, stated she had separated from her husband and was living as a single parent when she claimed the benefits.
Mrs Patel was claiming income support, jobseekers allowance, housing benefit, council tax benefit and rent allowance.
An investigation into the claims was started when information was received that her husband Dharmesh Patel was living with her, and that the property she was claiming rent allowance for belonged to him.
The investigation, carried out jointly by the Department of Work and Pensions and Wellingborough Council, discovered that Mr and Mrs Patel were living together and the rent allowance Mrs Patel was receiving was being transferred from her own bank account into one in her husband’s name.
Mr and Mrs Patel were both interviewed under caution by fraud investigators. As a result of the interviews, it was also discovered that a housing benefit claim made by Mr Patel, prior to the time the couple alleged to have separated, was also false.
Both were later charged to appear at Northampton Magistrate’s Court.
Sarah Patel pleaded guilty to seven offences with a view to obtaining benefit – one of dishonestly furnishing an income support claim form; one of dishonestly furnishing a jobseekers allowance claim form; three of dishonestly furnishing housing and council tax benefit claim forms, one of dishonestly furnishing a proof of rent letter; and one of dishonestly furnishing a proof of rent form.
Dharmesh Patel pleaded guilty to six offences – one of dishonestly furnishing a housing and council tax benefit claim form; one of dishonestly furnishing a rent book; one of dishonestly allowing an income support claim form to be furnished; and three of dishonestly allowing housing and council tax benefit claim forms to be furnished.
On Monday 3 November, Mr and Mrs Patel both appeared in court where they were given identical sentences of six months in prison for each offence, to run concurrently and suspended for two years. They were both also ordered to undertake 300 hours of unpaid work each, attend a three month supervisory order, and pay £300 costs and a £80 victim surcharge.
Wellingborough Council leader Cllr Paul Bell said: “Calculated and deliberate benefit fraud such as this is a very serious offence. It is not acceptable that a small number of people think they can get away with cheating the system, especially when so many honest people are struggling to make ends meet. We have an excellent track record in uncovering benefit fraud and we will continue to prosecute people who commit it.”
Sarah Patel had fraudulently claimed £20,247.01 housing benefit and £2,137.27 council tax benefit, £11,921.62 income support and £103.43 jobseekers allowance.
Dharmesh Patel had fraudulently claimed £6,115.26 housing benefit.
The total loss to public funds was £40,861.18.
Wellingborough Council and the Department of Work and Pensions are pursuing full recovery of the overpayments.