Former Smallfield woman pleads guilty to benefit fraud

A former Smallfield woman has been given an eight-week custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, after pleading guilty to benefit fraud.

Julie Withers, of Ninehams Gardens, Caterham, and formerly of Field Walk, Smallfield, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud of £11,078.

Appearing at Redhill Magistrates Court on December 16, she was given an eight-week custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay £600 towards prosecution costs and £80 to the victim support fund. The court heard that in December 2010, Mrs Withers was claiming housing and council tax benefit, but did not notify Tandridge District Council she had received £75,000 from the sale of her former home. The maximum capital limit allowed for benefit purposes is £16,000.

During a joint investigation into Mrs Withers’ benefit claim, she was interviewed in May 2013 by Tandridge District Council's Investigation Officer. The court was told she admitted having received the sum and failing to notify the council, as she knew she should.

Mrs Withers admitted she had spent most of the money from her house sale on luxury items.

As a result she had been overpaid benefit of £11,078. Mrs Withers will have to repay the debt to the council, in addition to the fines and costs.

Martin Fisher, chairman of Tandridge District Council's Resources Committee, said: “This is theft of public money and Mrs Withers is lucky she did not get sent to prison. “This highlights how important it is for benefit claimants to tell us about changes in their circumstances.”

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