Preston benefit fraud dad received £21k Pension Credit after lying about a second home he had inherited

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A man who failed to disclose he had inherited his parents' former home to the Department for Work and Pensions has been prosecuted for benefit fraud.

Peter Holmes, 67, of Nelson Street, Bamber Bridge, Preston, admitted dishonestly making a false statement to obtain Pension Credit in April 2014, which led to an overpayment of £21,317.13 from the taxpayer's purse.

Preston Crown Court heard in addition, he is paying off an overpayment caused by failing to disclose his wife's income - though that did not form a criminal charge - meaning the total overpayment he owes is £34,918.98

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Prosecuting, Miss Ellis said: "The property in question was inherited on December 8, 2008.

Preston Crown CourtPreston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court

"However in April 2014, during a telephone conversation with the Benefits Office to make a claim, he was asked if he had any property other than the property in which he lives and his answer to that was 'no'.

"As a result of that disclosure he received between July 11, 2014 and December 27,2018 an overpayment of £21,317.13 .

"When he was interviewed, there was a second matter in respect of which was a failure to disclose his wife's earnings, but this was not pursued, because of the nature of his relationship with his wife and the fact her money was not going into a joint bank account. "

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Holmes is making voluntary payments of £20 a week, and so far has paid off £1,020.

In an interview he indicated he didn't regard the £150,000 house as 'his' because it was mortgaged.

The court heard he mortgaged the property and used the mortgage to pay off other bills as he was in financial difficulties at the time.

The house was tenanted, with him as the landlord, so that the rent could effectively pay off the mortgage.

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He will face proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act because the property has since been sold and there is a financial probe into what happened to the proceeds.

Defending, Beverley Hackett said he had had a "very impressive elevation in his working life" starting at Sony Ericsson after leaving school and working his way right up to being an IT manager.

He was made redundant at 45 but was taken back on until retiring at 55.

She added: " They are humble educational and working beginnings but clearly evidence of a very hard working, determined man.

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"If I may say so on his behalf it is particularly upsetting that he finds himself before this court at this age he is, for the offence he pleaded guilty to, which clearly tarnished his reputation and life of working very hard."

She added " matters of heart and emotional wellbeing" caused by the breakdown of a relationship had been a factor.

Judge Simon Newell adjourned the case to December 17 for the sentencing and Proceeds of Crime Act hearing.

He said: "You're an intelligent man.

"My primary concern is to get this matter resolved financially and I would like to be in a position where the POCA hearing is resolved by December 17 and if it comes back that it is, and that the taxpayer is going to get all their money back, then it will stand you in very good stead in the way of mitigation."

But he warned he was making "no direct promises" and that prison was still an option.

Holmes was granted bail.