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Residents plead guilty to benefit fraud

PUBLISHED: 17:00 29 September 2015 | UPDATED: 17:00 29 September 2015

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Jacqueline Walsh of Chislehurst and Lauren Brown of Penge admitted to fraudulently claiming over £40,000 between them

Two residents have been sentenced after admitting benefit fraud that totalled over £40,000 between them.

Jacqueline Welsh, 41, of Whitehorse Hill, Chislehurst, pleaded guilty to defrauding Bromley Council out of £31,450 in housing benefit and council tax benefit/support over the period February 2006 to April 2015.

It was also established that the Department for Work and Pensions had overpaid her £3,013 in Job Seekers Allowance.

A referral from Bromley’s Benefit Section led to an investigation that showed that Ms Welsh had failed to declare a change in her circumstances.

Ms Welsh failed to declare that she was married and had joint bank accounts that had substantial amounts of income going through them.

Having pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to declare a change in her circumstances, Ms Welsh was initially sentenced on the August 7, 2015 at Bromley Magistrates Court to 20 weeks imprisonment.

She appealed this sentence and on September 23, 2015 at Croydon Crown Court the Bench allowed the appeal replacing the original 20 weeks immediate imprisonment with one of 20 weeks imprisonment suspended for a period of 12 months.

The Judge indicated that he had taken into account Welsh’s guilty plea, her references, repayment plans, the fact that she may lose her current employment if she was sent to prison and her child who is dependent on her.

No costs were awarded as her finances were now tied up in repaying the amount defrauded but there is requirement to pay a victim surcharge of £100.

In the second case Lauren Brown, 26, of Green Lane, Penge, pleaded guilty to defrauding Bromley Council out of housing benefit and council tax support totalling £2,879 for the period June 2013 to October 2014 and the DWP out of Income Support totalling £4,796 for the period February 2013 to August 2014. An anonymous allegation led to an investigation that showed that Ms Brown had failed to declare income that she was receiving partly from her employment.

She was sentenced at Bromley Magistrates Court on September 23, 2015 to a community order requiring her to work 150 hours of unpaid and ordered to pay £575 in costs and a victim surcharge of £60. As well as having a criminal record Ms Brown will be required to pay back the amount of the overpayment.

Councillor Neil Reddin Chairman of Bromley’s Audit Committee said: “These cases demonstrate our resolve to prosecute cheats who claim benefits that they are not entitled to. Bromley Council does not tolerate any fraud and we will ensure that public funds are only meant for the needy of this borough.”

These cases bring the total of Bromley benefit claimants prosecuted to 425 since Bromley Council and the Royal Borough of Greenwich started working in partnership to track, trace and prosecute benefit fraudsters.

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