Two Gateshead people who separately claimed a total of more than £6,500 in benefits illegally have been convicted at Gateshead Magistrates Court.
Sharon Wallace, 43, of formerly of Westminster Street, Gateshead, failed to notify the Council that she had left the area and continued to claim housing benefit and council tax benefit totalling £3,274.27 to which she was not entitled.
The Council had received an anonymous tip-off that Wallace had moved out of her rented property in Bensham, Gateshead and was running a pub in Sunderland. Investigators soon discovered that she was running the Hunters Lodge pub in Silksworth, Sunderland and that she had ceased claiming Jobseekers Allowance – changes of circumstance which she had failed to notify Gateshead Council about.
Wallace pleaded guilty at Gateshead Magistrates Court yesterday (7 September) and was fined £130 plus £100 costs. Gateshead Council is now recovering the £3,274.27 she fraudulently claimed.
Jacqueline Garrity, 40, Coach Road, Gateshead was convicted on two charges of failing to report a change in circumstances and one charge of making a false statement after a data matching exercise revealed that she had a second undeclared income.
Garrity was found to be working for a national facility services company in addition to holding two part-time posts with Gateshead Council – one as a cleaner for Gateshead College and the other as a school catering assistant – but had not declared the additional income she received. As a result, she received £2,405.72 in housing benefit and £904.35 in Council Tax benefit to which she was not entitled. She was also found to be receiving tax credits.
Garrity was invited to 3 separate interviews under caution but failed to attend any of them.
She pleaded guilty on 31 August this year but sentence was adjourned for probation reports. At Gateshead Magistrates’ Court yesterday, magistrates gave her a 12 month supervision order and ordered that she pay £100 costs.
Gateshead Council is now recovering the money she fraudulently claimed and, as an employee of the council, she will also be subject to disciplinary action.
Derek Coates, director of finance at Gateshead Council, said: “This is another example of people caught deliberately committing fraud by claiming benefits that they are not entitled to. Gateshead Council and our partner agencies use a range of measures to find these people and once identified, take all the necessary steps to ensure that action is taken against them through the courts”.
Anyone with good reason to suspect that a benefit fraud is being committed in Gateshead can provide details, anonymously if necessary, by ringing (0191)433 3748/3352 or by calling Gateshead Council’s 24 hour confidential hotline on (0191) 433 3657 and by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.