A woman has been found guilty of defrauding Plymouth City Council of more than £30,000.
Barbara Jones, 46, of Compton Knoll Close, Plymouth, admitted 7 counts of dishonestly supplying the Council with untrue or misleading information in order to make a gain for herself and cause a loss to the Public Purse.
Her husband Andrew Jones had charges against him dropped following Mrs Jones’ guilty plea.
Barbara Jones was given a 10 week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months.
She was also ordered to undertake 180 hours of unpaid work in the community in the next 12 months and to pay £1000 towards the prosecution’s costs.
Plymouth Crown Court were told at the sentencing hearing on 27th April that Mrs Jones had supplied false information on 6 occasions in respect of the self-employment earnings of Mrs Jones and her husband over a four year period in support of Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Council Tax Support Claim.
The defence did not dispute the overpayment figure but argued that there was no dishonesty by the defendant in this case.
The Judge (her honour, Recorder Rowley) commented that the offending was of a sophisticated nature and involved significant planning as it went on for a long period.
In response to references in the pre-sentence report to the fact that there was little doubt that Mrs Jones had gained financially, and spent money on luxuries such as a trip to Australia, the Judge commented: ‘I find that there was lavish expenditure and that you were clearly spending beyond your means’.
Councillor Ian Darcy, Cabinet Member for Finance for Plymouth City Council, said: “This successful prosecution demonstrates that we will not tolerate fraud in Plymouth. Every pound lost to fraudsters is a pound less for essential frontline services. Plymouth City Council will continue to robustly challenge and, where appropriate, prosecute those who commit these acts, to ensure that only those who have a genuine entitlement receive the assistance they are due.
“If you are claiming Housing Benefit or Council Tax is essential that if your circumstances change that you report changes either via our website at www.plymouth.gov.uk or call 01752 668000.”