Tenant jailed for fraudulently obtaining council housing

A tenant who fraudulently obtained council housing in the borough by lying about the fact she owned a property has been jailed for 32 months.

Suzanne Fox, formerly known as Suzanne Lines, lived in borough council housing for nearly 10 years before her fraud came to light.

The mother-of-two made three dishonest applications for social housing in five years between 2010 and 2015 – two of which were successful - while renting out a flat in Westley Court, West Bromwich which she owned.

The 48-year-old had initially denied six fraud offences but later changed her pleas to guilty. Fox appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court on Wednesday to be sentenced.

The court heard Fox submitted a successful application to Dudley Council for a one-bedroom flat in 2010, two years after buying the property in West Bromwich.

In 2011 Fox made another application for a two-bedroom house in Byron Street, Pensnett. The bid to move was also approved, the court was told, with a third application in 2015 to upgrade again to a bigger property rejected.

Fox was asked to fill out forms on each of the three applications which carried a question asking would-be tenants if they owned another property. She answered “No” on all three occasions, the court heard.

Council housing chiefs estimated the total loss to the authority - combined with the financial gain made by Fox - as a result of the long-running fraud was just under £200,000. It includes more than £4,200 of adaptations paid for by the council to create a wet room at the property, the court heard.

Fox was interviewed under caution by the council’s housing fraud team when concerns about potential fraud were identified, but remained living in the Byron Street property throughout the course of the investigation.

Local authority chiefs will now start the process to reclaim the money through the courts under the Proceeds of Crime Act. Councillor Laura Taylor-Childs, cabinet member for housing and communities, said:

“We are delighted with the verdict from the judge, which sends out a strong message that housing fraud of this nature will result in the strongest possible punishment and time behind bars.

”The two-bedroomed house acquired by the defendant could have gone to a family with children who were in real need.

“For the two successful applications made fraudulently by Fox for council housing, there were 39 other people or families who bid and missed out.

“A good number of those were being housed in temporary accommodation being paid for by the council.

“I applaud the hard work and tireless determination of our housing fraud team in securing this conviction, and we will now look to reclaim as much of the money back as we can through the courts and the Proceeds of Crime Act.”


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