Woman, 69, pleads guilty to fleecing benefits worth £20,000
By kentsussex | Tuesday, September 25, 2012, 10:56
Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council has successfully prosecuted another resident for benefit fraud.
Ann Charlotte Wenham (69) previously of Upper Mill, East Malling, pleaded guilty at Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, 18 September 2012.
Mrs Wenham claimed Housing and Council Tax Benefit based on her disability benefits but failed to tell Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council that she received a payment in the region of £161,000 in 2008, which she used to purchase a property at auction in her maiden name of Ann Tannahill.
As a result, Mrs Wenham was paid £20,570.32 in housing and council tax benefit, which she was not entitled to receive.
In mitigation, Mrs Wenham stated that she is unable to read and write and that she suffers from poor health, including severe arthritis.
In court, one of the Magistrates asked: "If Mrs Wenham cannot read and write, how did she manage to transfer money between accounts and purchase a property?"
Mrs Wenham's solicitor offered no explanation to the court for Mrs Wenham's offence, saying only that she accepted her guilt, hence the timely guilty plea.
The Magistrates stated that all types of sentence had been considered and that the only appropriate sentence was to impose a Community Order of three months. In addition, the court imposed a curfew between 8pm and 6am. Mrs Wenham will be tagged for this period.
The Magistrates also stated that the offence was of a very serious nature and would normally result in much more severe sentencing. The Magistrates indicated that, had it not been for Mrs Wenham's ill health and her timely guilty plea, the community order and curfew would have been for a much longer period.
Mrs Wenham will have to repay all the money fraudulently claimed. She will also have to pay £100 costs to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council.
Cllr Martin Coffin, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Finance, says: "This was a very serious and deliberate attempt to defraud taxpayers of their hard-earned money and I'm please that both a community order and a curfew were imposed in this case. Our benefit investigation team will continue to follow up every lead to ensure that fraudsters are caught and brought to justice."
Anyone who suspects that someone they know is fraudulently claiming benefit should contact the Benefit Investigation Section, in confidence, on 01732 876337. Further details can be found on the Council's website at www.tmbc.gov.uk.