Preston pension credit fraud received £21k overpayment after lying about a house he inherited
A pensioner who did not declare owning a second home has been given a suspended jail term for benefit fraud.
Former Sony Erikkson IT worker Peter Holmes, 69, of Nelson Street, Preston, admitted dishonestly making a false statement to obtain Pension Credit in April 2014.
Preston's Sessions House Court heard his actions led to an overpayment of £21,317.13 from the Department for Work and Pensions.
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Holmes failed to disclose he had inherited a second property, his parent's former home, which affected his claim.
Prosecuting, Catherine Ellis said: " This is a defendant who is charged with making a dishonest representation on an application for pension credits, as a result of which he received £21,317.13 which he shouldn't have received between July 2014 and December 2018.
"There were investigations which revealed that he had in fact through that entire period an interest in another property. That was a property which was mortgaged and tenanted.
"It appears from the tenancy the defendant was receiving some £550 per month.
"The property was worth £150,000 in 2014 when he made the claim for benefits.
"The mortgage it appears was interest only and financial information obtained for a Proceeds of Crime Act (POCA) application indicated it was sold finally in August 2020 for £128,500, of which something in the region of £46,400 went to the defendant after discharging the mortgage and paying the fees.
"And in fact the defendant has repaid the entirety of the money and the court was notified in February the POCA application would not be pursued.
"He initially claimed because there was a mortgage in place he believed the property belonged to the mortgage company.
"That flew in the face of the fact there was a tenancy agreement.
She told the court it was " fraudulent from the outset" but accepted there was not a great deal of planning or complexity to the fraud.
Defending, Beverley Hackett said: "The journey from back in 2019 to today has been daunting for this defendant, who accepts the mischief that occurs but in equal measure has lost his good character.
"As Your Honour knows, the defendant made arrangements by remortgaging his current property, that being the family home, so he was in a position to pay back the outstanding balance.
She added he was now unemployed and had no savings from the £46,000 he received from the sale of the house as it was given to his son's mother after they separated.
Imposing eight weeks, suspended for six months, and £500 costs, Judge Simon Newell said: "You initially prevaricated, but then pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.
"Eventually all that money has been repaid.
"You're 69 with no previous convictions. It seems to me in the circumstances that there ought to be a sentence which provides some deterrent to others."
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