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Benefit cheat didn’t reveal two pensions
10:00am Thursday 12th December 2013 in News
A 65-year-old Skipton man who claimed he was in need of benefits was actually in receipt of two private pensions, magistrates heard.
Keith Fawcett, who falsely claimed £2,421 in council tax and housing benefit from Craven District Council over a four-year period, made regular holiday bookings, Skipton magistrates were told.
Fawcett, who first applied for benefit in March, 2009, claimed on his application form he received just £255 per week as a driver and had joint savings with his wife of under £2,000.
But following information received in April this year, inquiries were made which revealed two undeclared annuities with the Prudential.
They revealed he had been paid a lump sum of £650 and £38 every six months since 2000, and a further lump sum of more than £10,000 and £159 every month since 2008.
Lisa Shepherd, prosecuting for the council, said when interviewed by officers, Fawcett agreed he had not declared the two private pensions, that he had not been entitled to benefit and it had been dishonest.
Ms Shepherd added that statements from the Halifax bank showed regular payments to Thomas Cook in addition to Currys, Morrisons and Amazon.
“There also appeared to be a number of what appeared to be holiday bookings with Jet2 and TravelRepublic.”
Fawcett, who had earlier received a caution from the council for a similar matter, had also in 2011 made two undeclared payments of £5,340 into ISAs.
Fawcett, who admitted failing to inform the council of his additional income, had paid to receive his own summons from the council after it had failed to put stamps on the letter, the court was told.
In mitigation, John Mewies suggested that costs awarded to the council be reduced by the £3.60 to cover what his client had to pay to receive his own summons.
Fawcett, who had since repaid all the money falsely claimed, was of previous good character whose employment had ended because of health reasons.
Mr Mewies said Fawcett had been naive and had also taken advice from the Jobcentre on whether he should apply for housing benefit, although he did not blame the staff.
He said Fawcett had written a letter to the council himself in May admitting that he was not entitled to benefit and that he wished to repay it.
All the money had been repaid even before the start of court proceedings, said Mr Mewies.
Magistrates told Fawcett, of Montgomery Street, that the dishonesty had gone on over a long time and pointed out his previous caution, which they believed would have meant him being more careful in future.
They said a community sentence including a substantial amount of unpaid work would have been normal, but they had taken into account his health issues.
He was fined £320 and ordered to pay costs of £200 and a victims surcharge of £15.