Benefit fraudster foiled

A Tooting woman could face jail after she pleaded guilty to two offences of housing benefit fraud at Wimbledon Magistrates Court last week.

Miss Owusu-Nkansah of 172 Derinton Road, Wandsworth, was found guilty on Thursday February 23. Sentencing was deferred until Tuesday March 7.

Miss Owusu-Nkansah made an application to Merton Council for housing benefit and council tax benefit on 19 December 2003 in respect of the house she was renting at 23 Lyveden Road, Tooting. She was awarded £163.40 per week in housing benefit, later rising to £167.25 per week. She also received £6.42 rising to £8.31 in council tax benefit. In all, she received over £3,200 in fraudently obtained benefit. When making the application she failed to inform the Council that she was already a tenant of the London Borough of Wandsworth and was renting a house at 172 Derinton Road.

The existence of the home and its subsequent purchase are material facts when determining the entitlement to Housing Benefit and Miss Owusu-Nkansah admitted in court she had dishonestly withheld this information.

Miss Owusu-Nkansah had no underlying entitlement to benefit so the whole sum of £3,247.28 is recoverable by the Merton Council.

The court has adjourned sentencing until 7th March 2006 with the Magistrates stressing “all options remain open”. The court may impose a fine not exceeding £5,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding six months (or both). The court also has the power to pass the case to Kingston Crown Court for sentencing. The Crown Court may impose a fine or even a jail term of up to seven years.