Champion benefit fraudster jailed

A Wimbledon man has been jailed for five months after being found guilty of 14 counts of dishonesty relating to two false housing benefit claims.

Phillip Champion of 85a Quicks Road in Wimbledon was sentenced last week – Wednesday 9 August – at Kingston Crown Court to five months in jail – four months in respect of the fraud and a further month for failing to attend promptly the first day of the trail as required under his conditions of bail.

Mr Champion, 54, was found guilty of making a false application for housing benefit in 2003 claiming he was a tenant of a property in Wimbledon. He made a further claim the following year in August 2004. In total Mr Champion fraudulently received £1860 to which he was not entitled.

The unemployed Mr Champion chose to represent himself in court causing the expected two-day trial to last six days. The judge recognised the case as particularly serious as Mr Champion deliberately exploited the fact that his purported landlord lived abroad – leading to the ‘landlord’ having to return to the UK from the USA to give evidence – and the elaborate nature of the scam involving false tenancy agreements and rent receipts. Further, Mr Champion committed the housing benefit fraud while on license in relation to previous convictions for dishonesty. Mr Champion had previously used cheques to pay for hotel accommodation he knew would ‘bounce’.

Chris Johnson, Head of Audit at Merton Council, said:

‘Merton is committed to reducing fraud and its councillors are firmly behind the drive to protect public funds and pursue fraudsters through the legal process.’