Benefit Cheat Sentenced

Amber Valley Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions have brought a successful joint prosecution, for benefit fraud, against a Somercotes woman who swindled a total of £33,114.17.

Tara Sutcliffe of Windmill Rise, Somercotes faced 4 charges of failing to declare that she had an alleged undeclared partner in permanent residence who was in full time employment whilst claiming state benefits.

Sutcliffe pleaded Not Guilty but was found Guilty at Derby Crown Court on Tuesday 4th August 2015 and sentenced at Derby Crown Court on Wednesday September 2nd 2015.

She was found guilty to 4 counts of benefit fraud between October 2009 and May 2014 contrary to section 111A (1A) and (3) of the Social Security Administration Act 1992.

She was sentenced to:

  • 30 weeks custodial suspended for 12 months
  • 100 hours unpaid work

These offences were for failing to notify Amber Valley Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in her circumstances which she knew would affect her claim to Income Support and Housing and Council Tax Benefit - namely, that she had an alleged undeclared partner in permanent residence who was in full time employment whilst claiming state benefits.

Tara Sutcliffe initially made a claim for Housing and Council Tax benefit in May 2009. At the time she was in receipt of a DWP benefit, which is a passported benefit, meaning that she automatically qualified to receive Housing and Council Tax Benefit.

The Council was alerted to the fraud by an anonymous phone call to the Benefits Fraudline. The Council's Benefits Investigation Unit started a joint investigation with the Department for Work and Pensions Fraud Investigation Service.

Substantial evidence was gathered during the lengthy investigation and sent to an independent adjudicator who decided that her claim to benefits was fraudulent and that she had been overpaid state benefits.

In February 2014 Sutcliffe was invited into Amber Valley Borough Council's offices to be interviewed under caution, on tape. She denied dishonestly claiming state benefits.

Councillor Alan Cox, Leader of Amber Valley Borough Council, said: "This is another example of someone claiming money that is not rightfully theirs. Benefit cheats take money intended for the most vulnerable in our society and the public, quite rightly, get angry about such behavior. With the public’s support we are closing in on and catching these individuals. We always aim to protect the public purse and in particular the taxpayers of Amber Valley Borough Council."

Mark Griffiths, Benefits Manager at Amber Valley Borough Council said: "This was a substantial fraud, taking place over 5 years and had it not been for an anonymous allegation could have continued for several more years. We hope this prosecution sends out a clear message that we will work closely with our partners to take action against anyone who tries to cheat and steal from the public purse.

“No one should think that they can get away with benefit theft. Amber Valley Borough Council's Benefits Investigation Unit and the Department for Work and Pensions Fraud Investigation Service are jointly working together to track down those guilty of stealing money they are not entitled to. With the help of the public, using the Department for Work and Pensions National Benefit Fraud Hotline 0800 854440 or Amber Valley Borough Council's Fraudline 01773 841466 we are closing in on benefit thieves".

All information provided will be treated in the strictest confidence.

For more information contact Mark Griffiths, Benefits Manager on 01773 841430

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