Benefits cheat dishonestly claimed almost £12,000

A benefits cheat who dishonestly claimed almost £12,000 from Derbyshire Dales District Council has received a 16-week jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered to undertake 100 hours of unpaid community work.

Tracy Miller, 43, of Pilsley, near Chatsworth, was also ordered to repay the benefits money and £765 court costs after pleading guilty at Chesterfield Magistrates' Court to eight charges of making false representations in two separate benefit claim forms and dishonestly failing to declare changes to her circumstances.

Miller declared in an initial claim form for housing and council tax benefit submitted in May 2011 that she was single with one dependent child and did not own or jointly own any property. She submitted a change of address form in January 2012 and again declared she was single.

Following an anonymous referral that Mrs Miller was married, the District Council carried out surveillance and discovered she had lived with a partner since the start of the claim and had married in September 2012. In addition, Miller jointly owned a property with an ex-husband and had received almost £26,000 from the sale proceeds. It was also found that her latest job generated a significantly higher income than the one declared to the council.

Miller's claim between 16 May 2011 and 14 October 2013 resulted in a total overpayment by the council of £11,819.17 in respect of housing and council tax benefit. She is repaying the money back at a rate of £75 a month.

After sentencing on Friday (5 December), a District Council spokesperson said:

"The District Council adopts a zero tolerance policy to benefit fraud because it is not a victimless crime - benefit thieves take money intended for the most vulnerable in our society.

"We rely on anonymous referrals from the general public to enable our staff to successfully investigate and bring those guilty of offences to justice. We welcome any information about someone who is claiming benefit to which they may not be entitled through our Benefit Fraud Hotline on 01629 761 330, where all calls are treated in complete confidence."

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