Benefits fraudster is given suspended term

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A fraudster who pocketed more than £56,000 in benefits he was not entitled to from Preston taxpayers has been given a suspended jail term.

Darren Lawson, 45, of Gleneagles Drive, Fishwick, Preston, was given eight months imprisonment suspended for two years and a six-month curfew order after admitting a string of benefit frauds during a hearing at Preston Crown Court.

For the next six months he is banned from leaving his house between 7pm and 6am as part of a curfew order.

He pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to give prompt notification of a change in circumstances, and four counts of dishonestly making a false representation.

Preston Crown Court heard Lawson made false statements with regards to the nature of his relationship with his partner, who he claimed was a non-dependant over a period of almost nine years.

This resulted in an overpayment of housing benefit totalling £44,456.28 and Council Tax benefit of £12,043.23.

In his summing up the judge said the benefit system was based on trust and that Mr Lawson had simply chosen to “lie to the council”, even going to the extent of submitting an appeal against the council’s assessed amount of benefits. Lawson has also been ordered to pay £500 costs.

Today, Preston City Council’s deputy chief executive, Bernard Hayes said: “This sentencing should act as a strong message about Preston City Council’s fraud detection systems. Preston City Council has a zero tolerance on benefit fraud.

“Benefit fraud is a theft and sentences such as these handed down by the courts should deter people from fraud as it is simply not worth it and you will get caught.”