A 50-year-old woman who claimed more than £11,000 in housing benefit while living with her mother has been found guilty of fraud.
Carol Baker, of Milton Way, Houghton Regis, claimed the money on the basis she had been renting a room from a resident landlady to whom she was not related and who had been shown on the claim form to have a different surname.
The fraud was discovered when a routine check by council officers in August 2013 revealed that Baker’s landlady, who had died earlier that month, was formerly known by the name of Baker.
An investigation into Baker’s claim was carried out by Central Beds Council and she was interviewed under caution where she confirmed that her landlady was her mother. But Baker claimed she never tried to deliberately conceal this fact from the council and simply made a mistake on the claim form by ticking ‘not related’ in error.
Housing benefit regulations make it clear that anyone renting from a close relative living in the same home is not entitled to housing benefit.
The council prosecuted Baker and, following her initial not guilty plea, a trial took place at Luton Magistrates Court last week.
Magistrates found her guilty of knowingly making a false statement to the council. They considered she was perfectly capable of filling a claim form correctly and they did not believe that she had just made a mistake regarding the relationship question.
After taking into account Baker’s current medical condition and means, the court fined her £110, ordered her to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and £600 towards prosecution costs.
Councillor Maurice Jones said: “Fraudsters and benefits cheats take money away from those people who really need it.
“This investigation clearly shows that we will not tolerate abuse of the benefits system and will take appropriate action against those who try to make a fraudulent claim.
“While we take a hard line against anyone who falsely claims benefits, help is always available for people who are genuinely entitled to receive financial aid.”
The confidential fraud hotline 0300 300 5557 is open 24 hours a day.
The money and benefits helpline is 0300 300 8306.