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Poole man jailed for benefit fraud

A Poole man has been sentenced to two years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of making false claims for Income Support, Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Employment & Support Allowance totalling over £120,000.

Following a Borough of Poole-led  joint investigation with Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council and the DWP, Eric Stone appeared at Bournemouth Crown Court on 20 March 2015.

Mr Stone’s initial benefit claims were made in Oldham, Greater Manchester, with claims for Housing and Council Tax Benefits made in Poole from July 2009 onwards. All claims were made on the basis that he was a single adult who was not married, had no children, was not working, and had no capital or property. 

An investigation started after information received by the Borough of Poole suggesting Mr Stone’s partner and two children were living in the property with him established that Mr Stone in fact married in 1996 and had two children with his wife. 

Claims for benefit were made for properties owned by his wife, whilst Mr Stone falsely advised the Borough of Poole that she was his sister-in-law. The investigation also revealed that Mr Stone owns two properties in his name, one of which was not declared. His wife also owns at least three properties, including the property for which Mr Stone claimed benefit.

In summing up the case and before passing sentence Judge Harrow stated that ‘benefits are for the needy and it is important for those claiming to be honest about their circumstances’, describing Mr Stone’s actions as ‘a breach of trust between you and the taxpayer and authorities’. In sentencing, the judge said that he had ‘no option but to consider an immediate prison sentence’, adding that ‘had it not been for the early guilty pleas and repayment of £82,000 of the overpayment to date, it would have been three years’.

Cllr Elaine Atkinson, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Revenue & Benefits, Borough of Poole, said: “This was an extremely serious case of fraud, not only because of the amount which was overpaid but also because of the deliberate and dishonest actions of Mr Stone, the length of time over which it was perpetrated and the sheer amount of information that was withheld by Mr Stone about his true circumstances. 

Paul Hudson, Partnership Manager for the Stour Valley and Poole Partnership, which administers council tax and benefits for Borough of Poole, said: “We welcome the Court’s decision and thank colleagues at the DWP and Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council, as it was only due to their cooperation that we were able to bring the full extent of Mr Stone’s actions to light.”

The full amounts fraudulently claimed were:

  • Poole - £29,945.18 Housing Benefit and £3,537.04 Council Tax Benefit
  • Oldham - £24,977.08 Housing Benefit and £7,198.18 Council Tax Benefit
  • DWP - £46,291.10 and £8,310.70

All monies claimed from the Borough of Poole have since been repaid in full. 

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