A Halifax benefits cheat was last week jailed for 27 weeks for taking more than £6,000 from the public purse.
Frankie Luders, 60, of Woodlands Mount, Halifax was charged with nine counts of benefit fraud against Scarborough Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Luders dishonestly obtained more than £1,600 of housing benefit by making claims at two addresses in Filey, which he did not live in, one after the other, and by counterfeiting a property owner’s signature. He also made claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance to the DWP while working.
Alison Johnson, Scarborough Borough Council audit and fraud manager, said: “We are very pleased that Luders has been given an appropriate sentence for the serious and systematic fraud he committed. The custodial sentence sends a clear message to anyone who is claiming benefits fraudulently or is thinking about it - don’t do it.”
Luders was previously convicted in 2013 of 10 counts of benefit fraud and was still subject to the terms of the community order placed on him at that time when he committed his latest crimes, which included making multiple false statements, failing to declare changes of circumstances and giving a false document.
Taking into account the size of the loss to the council and the DWP and that Luders had re-offended while still under the terms of the original community order, magistrates at Scarborough Magistrates Court immediately handed down a custodial sentence.
In defence, the court heard that the offences were due to Luders’ gambling addiction, which had caused difficulties in his marriage, leading to a temporary separation from his wife.
Luders was described as a relatively unskilled man and it was argued that a custodial sentence would mean him losing his current job and being unlikely to find work after prison, making timely repayment of the benefits more unlikely. The court also heard Luders was repentant and offered repayment of £50 per month.
A spokesperson for the DWP said: “We know that the vast majority of people play by the rules, however this case shows our investigators are cracking down on criminals who defraud the system to make sure they are brought to justice. Working while claiming is the most common benefit fraud and we are committed to stopping it.”
Every year benefit cheats cost local authorities and the DWP an estimated £2 billion in stolen benefits. The total cost of this fraud is equivalent to £80 a year from each family in Great Britain.
The DWP said that benefit fraud would be reduced by the rolling out of universal credit - a new type of benefit currently being introduced across the UK to support people who are on a low income or out of work.
The spokesperson for the DWP said: “Universal Credit will simplify and automate the welfare system, reducing fraud by £200m a year when rolled out fully across the country. By linking benefit claims with tax, our teams will be able to see almost immediately if a claimant is lying about work, to stop fraudulent claims.”
Universal Credit will replace six existing benefits - Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit, Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Employment and Support Allowance and Income Support.