Friday, 18 October 2013

Benefit Cheat Jailed For 12 Weeks

A benefit cheat who falsely obtained over £15,000 and then left the UK in 2009 has been tracked down and sent to prison for 12 weeks after investigators refused to close the case.

During a hearing at Cambridge Magistrates’ Court, Dritan Canaj, 27, from The Brambles, Bar Hill, admitted five offences of dishonestly making false statements to South Cambridgeshire District Council to obtain benefit and a further charge of dishonestly failing to report a change in circumstance to the Department for Work and Pensions.

Mr Canaj claimed housing and council tax benefit from the Council and Job Seeker's Allowance from the DWP as a single person but investigators uncovered that he had a partner living with him who was in work.

Evidence gathered by South Cambridgeshire District Council counter-fraud specialists, including sworn statements to the Home Office by both Mr Canaj and his partner to support an immigration matter, confirmed they had been living together. But in his claims to the Council for benefits he declared he was living alone to fraudulently claim money.

The case was initially investigated in 2009 but Mr Canaj left the UK before the investigation could be concluded. When investigators found earlier this year that he had returned to the country the case was reopened and he was arrested and interviewed while in Police custody.

It was found that he has been overpaid £6,955.41 in housing and council tax benefit between June 2008 and September 2009 and £8,542.40 in Job Seeker's Allowance between April 2006 and September 2009 which is being repaid.

In a separate case, Yvonne Turner-Andrews, 56, of Greenbank, Cambourne, was sentenced to a 12-month community order, during which she must complete 180 hours of unpaid work.

She was punished for failing to report a change in circumstances that affected her benefit entitlement after she failed to tell the Council about an increase in her income. This resulted in an overpayment of £12,054.46 in housing benefit and £2,529.18 in council tax benefit.

The magistrates ordered her to pay £320 towards the cost of the prosecution and a £60 victim surcharge. The falsely claimed benefits are now also being repaid.

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder for finance said: “Benefit fraud remains a major concern and we are committed to preventing and detecting it. The vast majority of claims are genuine but some people decide to try to cheat the system or fail to report changes that they know will affect their claim. These cases highlight that fraud doesn’t pay and we will take a tough stance on anyone trying to cheat the system.”

Anyone who suspects benefit fraud should report it to the Council on 0800 7311892 or by emailing benefitfraud@scambs.gov.uk.