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Redhill woman jailed for benefit fraud
10:48am Wednesday 17th October 2012 in Local News
A Redhill woman has been jailed for a year after being found guilty of benefit fraud totalling more than £50,000.
Jennifer Russell, 46, of Alpine Road, was sentenced at Guildford Crown Court to 12 months imprisonment for seven offences of Housing and Council Tax benefit fraud.
She was also ordered to pay £2,000 towards Reigate and Banstead Borough Council’s prosecution costs.
The court heard that Mrs Russell and her husband, Lee Russell, began claiming Housing and Council Tax benefit in July 2000 for an address in Kingfisher Avenue, Redhill. This benefit was reduced in February 2002 when Mr Russell became employed. However, in July of that year, Mrs Russell advised the council that her husband had left the property. For the next six years, she continued to claim Housing and Council Tax benefit from the council based on her living as a lone parent with three children and her part-time earnings.
However, council benefits officers’ suspicions that this was not the case were aroused in 2008, when it was noted that money was being paid into Mrs Russell’s bank account from an unknown account number. This account was later identified as a joint bank account with her husband. A council spokeswoman said that after further enquiries, it was established that Mr Russell had been working throughout the period of Mrs Russell’s benefit claim, and his employers confirmed his home address to be the same as hers'. This meant that Mrs Russell had received benefits totalling £50,371.91 that she was not entitled to.
She was interviewed on two separate occasions by council investigation officers but did not admit that her husband had been living with her while she was claiming benefit.
After pleading not guilty at a subsequent hearing, the case progressed to trial by jury at Guildford Crown Court. At the trial, which began on September 11, she was found guilty of all seven charges of fraud against her. Julian Ellacott, borough council executive member for housing and welfare, said: “The council works hard to prevent, detect and investigate all types of fraud against the council.”
Coun Ellacott said: “Housing and Council Tax benefit is there for people who really need it and not for those who want to abuse it.”
He said: “The court has seen all of the relevant evidence and as a result has found Mrs Russell guilty and handed down a significant sentence, which highlights the serious nature of these crimes. “I hope this serves as a warning to others that cheating the system does not pay and will not be tolerated.”