Thursday, 9 January 2014

Suspended Prison Sentence For Cottenham Benefit Fraudster

A benefit cheat from Cottenham has been given a six month suspended prison sentence at Cambridge Crown Court.

Zoe Shipp, 46, of Orchard Close, Cottenham, admitted 12 counts of dishonestly failing to report changes in circumstances to obtain benefits between July 2005 and November 2010.

Miss Shipp had previously denied the offences, but pleaded guilty at the start of the first day of a trial in November last year.

South Cambridgeshire District Council investigators acted on a tip-off to uncover over £20,000 of payments into Miss Shipp’s bank account and that of her partner during her claim for benefit. These had not been declared to the Council or the Department for Work and Pensions.

It was also found that her partner had inherited a property during the benefit claim which had also not been declared.

Miss Shipp and her partner were both arrested by Police at their home address and the property was searched, along with other premises in Haddenham. During the search documents relating to a property owned by the couple in Bulgaria, which was purchased during the benefit claim period, were found.

When interviewed at Parkside Police Station Shipp would not answer any questions about the matter.

It was found that as a result of the offences £30,082.88 in housing benefit, council tax benefit and income support had been overpaid. This has already been recovered in full.

The sentence was suspended for two years and South Cambridgeshire District Council was also awarded costs totalling £3,000.

Cllr Simon Edwards, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said: “Thanks to our actions this significant sum of money has been recovered and returned to the public purse. Miss Shipp is quite rightly facing the consequences of her actions in fraudulently claiming the benefits that she wasn’t entitled to and did not need. I would like to thank the Police for their assistance in helping us bring her to book and I hope this sends a clear message to others that fraudsters will be caught and punished. This is not a victimless crime as fraudulently claimed benefits takes money out of the pockets of every hard working taxpayer as well as the people who genuinely need support to make ends meet.”