Benefit fraud couple claimed thousands despite earning £46,000

Portsmouth Crown Court
Portsmouth Crown Court
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A COUPLE claim they committed benefit fraud just to ‘survive’ despite the husband earning £46,000 in one year.

Michael and Erica Denyer, of Juniper Close, Horndean, admitted falsely claiming more than £34,000 in housing and council tax benefits between 2009 and 2013.

At Portsmouth Crown Court the couple’s barrister, Naomi Gyane, said they had never claimed benefits until 2009 when Mr Denyer was declared bankrupt and their house was repossessed.

They moved into rented accommodation and signed benefits forms with East Hampshire District Council saying only Mrs Denyer was in work. In fact Mr Denyer, 46, was working as a taxi driver.

Shortly afterwards Mrs Denyer, 36, fell pregnant and informed the council that she was not working.

What she did not tell them was her husband had secured a well-paid job fitting window blinds.

In one year he earned £46,000 fitting blinds – £20,000 more than the average wage.

Miss Gyane said: ‘Before 2009 they had never claimed benefit, having both worked exceptionally hard.

‘But they ended up relying on dwindling income and credit cards. Mr Denyer was declared bankrupt. They were in rental accommodation with a child. They were forced to rely on handouts from family and friends.’

Miss Gyane said although at first Mr Denyer worked as a taxi driver it was actually putting them under even more financial pressure because of the cost of hiring a car and paying for fuel.

She said £46,000 was a gross figure and his actual earnings were far less.

‘Mrs Denyer has no previous convictions and they are ashamed and remorseful of their actions,’ she added.

The court heard Mr Denyer is working seven days a week and his wife works nights to try and repay the money.

‘The money was not for extravagance,’ said Miss Gyane. ‘It was done to keep going. It was done to survive.’

Judge Roger Hetherington deferred sentencing the pair for six months to see if they stick to the repayment plan.

They both admit a count of council tax benefit fraud and housing benefit fraud as well as two counts each of failing to notify the council about their true income.

The council tax benefit overpayment was £6,105 and housing benefit overpayment was £28,737.

Solicitor Sara Bryan, from the council, said the case was brought as a last resort and added: ‘This fraud went on for a period of four years, and led to a huge overpayment of money that the couple were not entitled to. This is public money and we, as a local authority, are duty-bound to take steps to recover that money wherever possible.’