A fraudster who claimed housing and council tax benefit despite having a six-figure bank account has been fined and given a 12-month community order.
It was heard at Hammersmith Magistrates’ Court that Mrs Smith, 52, had privately rented out the Horley home for several years, then sold it and banked the cash.
She later applied for H&F’s tenancy incentive scheme - which helps council tenants buy their own home by giving them cash in exchange for their tenancy - and would have been eligible for £30,000 to put towards buying her own home.
She appeared in court on May 5, where she admitted six charges of fraud, dating from between February 2008 and April 2012.
She was given a 12-month community order, with 150 hours of unpaid work. She was further ordered to pay costs of £1,200 and a £60 victim surcharge, a press release by H&F Council said.
The court heard she was overpaid a total of £12,653 in housing benefit and council tax benefit, but has since repaid most of this amount.
Magistrates were told Mrs Smith’s ruse became apparent when she was required to provide bank statements as part of the incentive scheme application and inadvertently submitted an account she had not declared to the benefit office, with a balance of £213,574.
She later realised her mistake and withdrew her application but eagle-eyed council officers had already noticed she was claiming benefits and an investigation was launched, the court heard.
It was then discovered Mrs Smith had two bank accounts she had not declared, one of which had showed regular income from the rental of the house in Horley between December 2008 and November 2011.
Checks revealed she had owned the house since May 2006 and that in April 2012, sold it for £267,500. Using part of the proceeds she purchased her current home in London Street, Chertsey, Surrey.
Councillor Lisa Homan, council’s cabinet member for housing, said: “We are determined to crack-down on housing fraudsters across the borough and this latest successful prosecution demonstrates that.
“These services exist for those that truly deserve support. Fraudsters are stealing from them and the borough’s tax and rate payers.
“Shrewd work by council investigators revealed Mrs Smith’s sophisticated scam which had enabled her to defraud the council out of thousands in benefits she would otherwise have been ineligible for.”