Southsea benefit cheat jailed for £18K false claims

Copperfields Hair Studio, on Hayling Avenue in Baffins. Picture: Google Street View PPP-171118-153719001

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A BENEFIT cheat has been jailed after claiming £18,000 in money she wasn’t entitled to.

Trudy Webster was given a two-month prison sentence after admitting dishonestly claiming thousands in benefits.

The 53-year-old, of Apsley Road, Southsea, started getting housing and council tax benefits from Portsmouth City Council in December 2007.

In January 2011, she failed to arrange a routine appointment with council officers to check her entitlement.

A follow-up investigation discovered she had been working at a betting shop since March 2008, but had carried on claiming the benefits.

At Portsmouth Magistrates’ Court she admitted failing to tell the council of the change in her circumstances and was sentenced to 60 days in prison.

She is paying back a housing benefit overpayment of £15,341 and a council tax benefit overpayment of £2,569 will be added to her council tax bill.

The case comes two weeks after 51-year-old Abdul Esfandmozd was handed a four-year jail term after being caught claiming nearly £100,000 in council disability benefits – despite being snapped hula dancing on holiday.

City council solicitor Michael Lawther said Webster’s sentence reflected how seriously the council and courts deal with benefit cheats.

He said: ‘The council does pursue benefit fraud vigorously and it is our responsibility where fraud is committed to ensure the money is recovered.

‘We have taken a number of these actions recently with a high degree of success and will continue to pursue cases where fraud is identified.

‘What has been shown in recent cases is where people do fraudulently claim benefits they do risk the serious possibility of receiving a custodial sentence.

‘We have seen over and over again that the courts take these cases extremely seriously.’

Ed Woodhouse, head of revenues and benefits at the council, said benefit fraud is far from a victimless crime.

He said: ‘Benefits are for people who need them, and claiming them falsely is taking money from people who pay taxes.

‘We hope this prison sentence will make others who claim unlawfully think twice.

‘If residents have information about benefit cheats, they can contact us on (023) 9284 1550.’