Fraudster couple pretend to be uncle and niece in bid to buy council house
A former council worker and his wife have been sentenced for a £20,000 benefits scam that ended with them dishonestly trying to buy their council home.
Anthony Cheshire, who worked as a painter and decorator for Sandwell Council's neighbourhoods team, and his wife Elizabeth Webb, falsely claimed council tax and housing benefit for more than four years.
Webb falsely claimed she was single and that Cheshire was her uncle, not her husband, to receive the benefits – which led to them dishonestly trying to purchase the council property they were living at in Newmans Close, in the Smethwick area.
The pair were sentenced at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Friday following a prosecution brought by Sandwell Council's counter fraud and legal teams.
The court heard how Webb dishonestly claimed housing and council tax benefit between February 2013 and November 2017.
When she first made the benefit claim, the council queried her relationship with Cheshire – and she claimed he was her uncle, who had moved in with her.
Webb told Sandwell Council that Cheshire, who she was still claiming was her uncle, would pay the £58,000 cost of buying the property – a price that had been discounted by 42 per cent under the Right to Buy scheme.
Their dishonesty was revealed when they made the application and council officers looked more closed at their relationship.
Cheshire, 52, pleaded guilty to two false representation fraud offences – one in relation to the false Right to Buy claim, which would have defrauded the council out of £42,000, and a second in relation to the false benefit claims. The court heard that he had more than £60,000 in the bank – enough to buy the council property under Right to Buy outright, without a mortgage.
Webb, 49, pleaded guilty to five false representation offences relating to the benefit claims and the false representation fraud offence relating to the Right to Buy claim. She was found guilty of seven further offences of false representation following a trial.
Webb was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years. She was also ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work.
Cheshire received a six-month electronically monitored curfew, running between 9pm and 6am.
Sandwell Council's cabinet member for resources and core services, Councillor Wasim Ali, said: "This case uncovered dishonesty over a considerable amount of time.
“Webb falsely claimed benefits she was not entitled to by lying about the identity of her husband – who at that time worked for Sandwell Council.
“They were paid just over £20,000 in benefits they were not entitled to and they would have benefited by £42,000 had they gone on to buy their council property at a 42 per cent discount.
“This is a warning to people that if they lie when they claim benefits, we will find out. We don’t tolerate fraud and we will be pursuing repayment of the falsely claimed benefits.”
Cheshire no longer works for Sandwell Council.
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