Preston benefit cheats cost taxpayer more than £200,000

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Thirty-four people in Preston have been prosecuted for committing housing and council tax benefit fraud – scamming more than £200k from the public purse.

From April 2013 to March 2014, 81 cases of fraud were reported in Preston with a total of £216,890 fraudulently claimed for. Seventy-three were for housing benefit and council tax benefit fraud, which cost the taxpayer £216,047, five were council tax reduction fraud at £813 and three others cost a further £30. Preston Council will be able to claim back £160,912 through prosecution, cautions or penalties.

Cabinet member for resources, Coun Martyn Rawlinson, said: “The prosecutions the council has pursued sends out a clear message of zero tolerance on this type of crime.

“Benefit fraud cheats the public purse and we will prosecute anyone who we believe has deliberately attempted to claim money to which they aren’t entitled. All defendants will have to pay back all overpayments in full.”

Last year, the Evening Post reported a serial fraudster was jailed again after he defrauded the public purse to the tune of £10,500. Michael Robert Gardner, 31, from Ingol, was found guilty of a string of benefit frauds including housing benefit, council tax benefit and fraudulently claimed overpayments in Income support, Employment Support Allowance and Jobseekers allowance.

Andy Silvester, campaign director at the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s crucial that fraud is bought down to a minimum. Benefit fraud is only committed by a minority, as these figures show, but we must come down hard on them as it simply is not fair on hard-pressed taxpayers who pay their way.”