A benefits claimant who fraudulently received more than £27,000 after her circumstances had changed has been given a suspended prison sentence and told to repay the money to Boston Borough Council.
Karina Hardstaff, of Ingram Road, Boston, had failed to tell the council that she was living with her partner.
Boston Magistrates’ Court was told on Monday, June 15, that an extensive investigation into her claim had been conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions and Boston Borough Council.
Mrs Hardstaff had claimed an overpayment of her benefits amounting to more than £27,000, which she will now have to repay.
The council was alerted to the fraudulent claim following information received which indicated that her partner was at her claim address.
The council, which receives information through data matching, credit checks and various other sources, launched an investigation with the DWP, which showed Mrs Hardstaff’s partner living at the claim address over a four-year period.
Investigators have legal powers to obtain information from employers, banks and other organisations. They also have the authority to undertake surveillance of suspects and their property. The investigators amassed a wealth of evidence to prove the extent of the fraud.
Mrs Hardstaff pleaded guilty to the offences and was given a six-month prison sentence suspended for two years and a supervision order for 12 months.
After the sentencing, a spokesman for Boston Borough Council fraud’s department said: “Hopefully this latest prosecution will send out a message to those who know their claims aren’t correct.
“Standing in the dock at court charged with benefit fraud is not a nice place to be. If found guilty you will have a criminal record and may ultimately end up in prison.
“If anyone has a claim for housing benefit, council tax support or single person discount and has a partner or additional people living at their address who have not yet been declared please tell the council as soon as possible to ensure your claim remains correct.”