Debt collector spared jail over £34,000 fraud

Issue 407

A DEBT collector who claimed more than £34,000 in benefits while working has escaped a jail term.

Tracy Roberts, of Chickenley Lane, Chickenley, pocketed income support and council tax benefit for five years.

She was finally caught when an anonymous caller reported her to the National Benefits Fraud Hotline.

Investigators found she was working as a debt collector for Wilson Tupholme, Leeds Crown Court was told.

Roberts admitted claiming £32,450 in income support and £2,170 in council tax benefit from April 2003 to May 2008. She was also paid housing benefit from April 2003 to October 2004.

She was sentenced to a 16week suspended prison term along with a 12month supervision order and told to carry out 150 hours unpaid work.

She must also pay the money back and has so far returned £1,800.

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said that in early 2008 the hotline received an anonymous call about Roberts.

At the time she was claiming income support and council tax benefit and had claimed housing benefit until October 2004 as a lone parent, said the spokesman.

During our investigation we obtained proof of earnings from her employers and copies of pay slips going back for over five years. As a result her benefits were suspended.

Mr Vernon Sanderson, regional fraud manager for the DWP, warned that benefits cheats would always be caught and faced longterm consequences.

He added: Those committing benefit theft dont just face the possibility of a criminal record and a jail sentence.

Their crime can impact on future employment, insurance and credit applications too. Benefit theft really isnt worth the risk.

The National Benefit Fraud Hotline can be contacted on 0800 854440.

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