Benefits cheat claimed handouts despite having £24,000 hidden in secret bank accounts

Leeds Crown Court
Leeds Crown Court

A pensioner cheated the taxpayer out of council tax and housing benefits by lying about the fact that she had over £24,000 of savings hidden in bank accounts.

Veronica Clements tried to cover up her offending by transferring money into different accounts when the deception came to light.

Christopher Moran, prosecuting, told Leeds Crown Court that Clements, 67, illegally claimed £10,430 in benefits between 2012 and 2017.

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Clements initially claimed benefits on the basis that she had a low income and only one bank account which contained £2,500.

Mr Moran said: “At the time she had three bank accounts and her total capital was £15,237.”

The prosecutor said the threshold for claiming benefits is £10,000.

Analysis of Clement’s bank accounts revealed that she had £24,456 byJune 2013.

The court heard Wakefield Council were alerted in 2015 to the fact that Clements had more than one bank account.

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Clements then identified that she had three bank accounts containing a total of £7,000, but failed to declare two further accounts containing £22,518.

The prosecutor added: “In the months following the declaration she regularly transferred payments between her accounts.”

Clements, 67, of The Maltings, Pontefract, pleaded guilty to two offences of fraud.

Probation officer Jodie Loftus told the court Clements had said she committed the offences as she was worried about her finances after retiring as a Wakefield Council employee.

Mrs Loftus said: “At the time she was not thinking of the bigger picture but with the benefit of hindsight she recognises the seriousness of her behaviour.”

Michael Greenhalgh, mitigating, said Celements was a volunteer at Wakefield Hospice and provided care for her two sisters.

Mr Greenhalgh said the defendant had never been in trouble before.

He said she had re-paid over £5,000 of the money and would repay the illegally-claimed amount in full.

Clements was given a two-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

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Recorder David Gordon said: “It must be very shameful for you to be setting in the dock at the age of 67 having never been in trouble.

“This was dishonesty from the outset and for a prolonged period of time.

“Public funds, which is what you obtained by dishonesty, are stretched.

“For much of the period it was a time of austerity and belt tightening for people in our country.

“You have obtained resources which could have been spent by our Government on people in genuine need.”