Monday, 3 June 2013

£81K Benefit Fraudster Awaits Sentencing

A Cambourne benefit cheat is awaiting sentencing after being found guilty of over £81,000 of benefit fraud.

Vicky Cooling, 31, of Greenhaze Lane, Great Cambourne had claimed benefits as a single parent but failed to tell two councils and the Department for Work and Pensions that she had a partner living with her who was in full time work.

Miss Cooling denied two charges of dishonestly failing to report changes in her circumstances and two charges of dishonestly making false statements to obtain benefit. A jury at Cambridge Crown Court found her guilty of all charges on 31 May. She is due to be sentenced in the first week of July.

The prosecution was brought by South Cambridgeshire District Council on behalf of itself, Borough of Broxbourne Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). Miss Cooling fraudulently claimed £41,590 in housing and council tax benefit while living in Broxbourne between 2007 and 2011, and £7,956 while living in South Cambridgeshire. She was also found to have been overpaid £31,941 in income support and jobseekers allowance from the DWP.

Sentencing guidelines suggest a custodial sentence of between 18 weeks and 30 months but a Crown Court Judge will decide on an appropriate sentence, taking any mitigating factors into account. Regardless of the sentence, all of the overpaid benefit will have to be repaid in full.

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council's deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “This is the largest benefit fraud case that we have taken to court and both we and our partners are delighted that our careful investigations have resulted in a guilty verdict. Benefit fraud is not a victimless crime - it takes money away from our communities and services and affects us all. We take a tough line on fraud and it’s not a question of if we catch fraudsters, but when.”

Anyone suspecting benefit fraud should contact the Council on 0800 7311892 or email benefitfraud@scambs.gov.uk