Smethwick couple sentenced over benefit and right to buy fraud

A former Sandwell Council worker and his wife have been sentenced for a £20,000 benefits scam that ended with them dishonestly trying to purchase their council home.

Anthony Cheshire, who worked as a painter and decorator in the council’s neighbourhoods team, and his wife Elizabeth Webb falsely claimed council tax and housing benefit for more than four years. Webb falsely claimed she was single and that Cheshire was her uncle, not her husband, to receive the benefits – which led to them dishonestly trying to purchase the council property they were living at in Newmans Close, Smethwick.
The pair were sentenced today (Friday 21 February) at Wolverhampton Crown Court following a prosecution brought by the council’s counter fraud and legal teams.

Elizabeth Webb was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, suspended for two years.  She was also ordered to undertake 150 hours of unpaid work. Anthony Cheshire received a six month electronically monitored curfew, between 9pm and 6am.
The court heard how Webb dishonestly claimed housing and council tax benefit between February 2013 and November 2017. When she first made the benefit claim, the council queried her relationship with Cheshire and Webb claimed he was her uncle who had moved in with her.
The court heard Webb went on to make several dishonest statements to the council to obtain housing and council tax benefits she was not entitled to. Webb and Cheshire then applied to buy their council property in 2017. Webb told the council that Cheshire, who she was still claiming was her uncle, would pay the £58,000 cost of buying the property – a price that had been discounted by 42% under the Right to Buy scheme.
Their dishonesty was revealed when they made the application and council officers looked more closed at their relationship.
Cheshire, aged 52, pleaded guilty to two false representation fraud offences - one in relation to the false Right to Buy claim, which would have defrauded the council out of £42,000, and a second in relation to the false benefit claims.
The court heard that he had more than £60,000 in the bank – enough to buy the council property under Right to Buy outright, without a mortgage.
Webb, aged 49, pleaded guilty to five false representation offences relating to the benefit claims and the false representation fraud offence relating to the Right to Buy claim. She was found guilty of seven further offences of false representation following a trial. Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for resources and core services Councillor Wasim Ali said:

“This case uncovered dishonesty over a considerable amount of time. Ms Webb falsely claimed benefits she was not entitled to by lying about the identity of her husband – who at that time worked for Sandwell Council.
“They were paid just over £20,000 in benefits they were not entitled to and they would have benefited by £42,000 had they gone on to buy their council property at a 42% discount.
“This is a warning to people that if they lie when they claim benefits, we will find out. We don’t tolerate fraud and we will be pursuing repayment of the falsely claimed benefits.” 
Anthony Cheshire no longer works for Sandwell Council.


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