Benefit cheat family members brought to book over Whiteley house

The family pleaded guilty to fraud charges
The family pleaded guilty to fraud charges
Portsmouth Crown Court. Picture: Solent News and Picture Agency

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THREE members of a family who faked rent books and forged signatures in order to claim housing benefit have been given conditional discharges.

The three – including the 80-year-old mother – pleaded guilty to a range of fraud charges at Fareham Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.

Mother Maisie Keophaithool, of Dickens Drive, Whiteley, was caught by Fareham Borough Council’s benefits team when she put in a claim for housing benefit in February last year.

The retired pharmacy owner tried to claim £1,250 per month in housing benefit for a house that was owned by her 42-year-old son Pat Keo, a company director, of Halford Road, London.

The amount was flagged up by the council as larger than the average rental cost for a house in Whiteley and an investigation was launched.

When Maisie was questioned, she continued to lie and said she was not related to her landlord and fake rent books were created as evidence with forged signatures.

The investigation also uncovered that her other son, 45-year-old Charlie Keo, a security guard, of Brockwell Court, London, had also been claiming benefit for living at the Dickens Road address.

He had already been paid £3,707.88 by the council and had been claiming £350 per month. The court heard how he had already started to pay back this amount and his defence assured the court the remainder would be paid back within two weeks.

Chairman of magistrates David Abrams labelled the case ‘a sophisticated fraud’.

He added: ‘These are never straightforward situations. It is a grey area. These three defendants have done something very foolish and taken the view that they are entitled to benefits and not played by the rules.’

Pat pleaded guilty to six counts of making/supplying an article for use in fraud. Charlie pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly producing/furnishing a statement/representation to obtain social security benefit and one count of fraud by false representation.

Maisie pleaded guilty to two counts of making/supplying an article for use in fraud and two counts of dishonestly producing/furnishing a statement/representation to obtain social security benefit.

They were each given a two-year conditional discharge, and made to pay £300 court costs and a £15 victim surcharge.