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Benefits cheat who hid £70k windfall spared prison
A woman who hid a £70,000 inheritance windfall and continued to claim benefits has been spared prison.
Barbara Tolley, who lived in Melton Place, Epsom, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court earlier this month after pleading guilty to two counts of benefit fraud.
In December 2006, while receiving benefits, Mrs Tolley inherited more than £71,000 but failed to report this to the Government's Department for Work and Pensions or Epsom Council.
It was only later picked up on an electronic data match that compares benefit records against certain other types of data and reports cases where there are discrepancies.
The court accepted that while Mrs Tolley had chosen to give away some of the money, it was still deemed to be hers and affected her benefit entitlement.
During the period of the fraud, which ran until April last year, she was overpaid £32,754 in housing benefit, £5,637 in council tax benefit and £24,216 in income support - costing the public a total of £62,608, which she must repay.
Judge Brock said the scale of the offence meant it had crossed the custody threshold and in most cases the defendant would expect immediate imprisonment.
But Mrs Tolley’s early guilty plea was taken into account and she was sentenced to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months. She was also ordered to carry out 150 hours of unpaid work.
Councillor Neil Dallen, chairman of the council’s strategy and resources committee said: "The courts again showed that benefit fraud is taken seriously.
"People claiming benefit they are not entitled to should be aware that fraudsters are getting caught and facing severe penalties.
"If anyone else has not declared their true circumstances they should do so - before they are caught."
Anyone with information about someone claiming benefits they are not entitled to should call the fraud hotline on 01372 732275. Calls are confidential and will be investigated.
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