A pensioner lived abroad for nearly a year while claiming housing, council tax benefit and pension credit, a court heard.
Nasir Uddin Ahmed, of Wolverhampton, claimed he did not know he had to tell the authorities before he left for Bangladesh for the majority of last year.
Wolverhampton Magistrates Court heard yesterday that the 69-year-old received a total of £7,874.74 while he away. He pleaded guilty to failing to notify Wolverhampton City Council of a change in circumstances that affected his entitlement to housing and council tax benefit from January 23 last year to December 23 last year.
He also admitted failing to notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances that affected his entitlement to pension credit from January 16 last year to December 12 last year.
Mrs Clare Davis, prosecuting, said: “Information was received which indicated the defendant may be living abroad. He was interviewed on January 16 and produced his passport which showed he had been out of the country from January to December last year.
“He denied knowing he needed to tell any department he was leaving the country. He said he did receive information leaflets but did not read them.”
Mrs Davis also said he had already begun repaying the debt through deductions from his retirement pension of £24.83 each week.
The court heard Ahmed, of Armstead Road, in Pendeford, had not been in trouble before and had no known health issues.
Ahmed, defending himself, said: “I didn’t know I had to tell. I apologise for it. I’ve been claiming for a number of years.
“I went to Bangladesh. I did not know I had to let people know.”
District Judge Michael Wheeler said he took Ahmed’s age and previous good character into account.
He ordered Ahmed to pay a £110 fine for each of his charges, as well as a £20 victim surcharge and £100 prosecution costs – a total of £340 – as well as having to keep up the repayments to the council and Department for Work and Pensions.
It comes after a campaign was launched by the Government to target benefits cheats. It encourages claimants to come clean about changes to their circumstances and urges the public to call the National Benefit Fraud Hotline.
David Freud, Minister for Welfare Reform, said: “Hard-working taxpayers lost an outrageous £1.2 billion in benefit fraud last year. Claimants attempting to siphon off benefit cash need to know our teams are cracking down on them.”