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Council Tax Benefit Fraud Investigation


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Hi All, I'm a newbie, and rightly or wrongly in a panic! :sad:

 

So, where to start? I'll try and be as brief as I can:

 

I've just received a scary letter (yesterday) from the council asking me to attend a formal interview on Tuesday 15th March (in accordance with the Police & criminal Evidence Act) that says I am being investigated for Council Tax Benefit Fraud. It doesn't say what they think I've done, and I don't know if I'm guilty, but this all started when I approached them a few weeks ago. It talks about criminal proceedings being taken.

 

I was supposed to be at a training event that day for a charity I volunteer with, and now will have to miss it, much to the charity's cost (not that I'd be much use there on Tuesday any more after reading this letter!)

 

Background:

I was made redundant in Sep 2008 after being signed-off sick from work since June that year. I was suffering from Depression & Anxiety (and still am), but I got a decent redundancy pay-out as I'd been there for 9 years. My illness was because of the stress of dealing with my ex's own mental illness (she's bipolar) it tore us apart and caused all sorts of problems...one of the biggest issues I'm having is that the medication I have had to take has had a major impact on my brain's usefulness.

 

I can barely concentrate long enough to make a cup of tea, let alone deal with the stress of a fraud investigation, and my memory is useless. So many things over the last 3 years are just a blur. I am really worried that I might have messed up and be in trouble, so I'm trying to find an experienced benefits/fraud solicitor in the South Yorkshire area that can help me sort this mess out and avoid a criminal conviction if possible?!

 

I don't know how relevant it is, but she had what they call a "major episode" in April 2005 which was basically the beginning of the end for us, but some how I managed to hold down my job, and in April 2007 we bought a new house together. She seemed a lot better but I think the house was more of a sticking-plaster for our failing relationship, and in October that year we split-up. She didn't have anywhere else to go, and the house was in her name too, so we both lived here (not as a couple) as long as we could, but it was too much for us in the end, and in May last year she moved out to go back to her parents.

 

Anyway, with the housing boom having been at it's height, and me having a well-paid job at the time, I managed to buy the new house and keep hold of the old one to rent out, which it has been, on-and-off, since we moved to the new one (I think in May 2007). Ever since then, of course, we had the housing crash, so both properties are in negative equity (even though the old one is only little, I was there for just 3 years, so barely dented the mortgage), so I haven't even been able to sell one or both of them in the meantime, either.

 

Benefits

When I applied for benefits in late 2008 / early 2009, I told them about the other house, and so started getting IB and some council tax benefit. My ex was also receiving IB, DLA & Council Tax benefit for some of the time she was living here -I don't know the exact details off the top of my head. (As far as I know, she was entitled to 100% benefit on council tax for the period she lived here and was claiming, so I'm guessing the problem is some time either-side of that period when just my claim was eligible?)

 

So, the rent & IB/CTB wasn't enough to cover the bills, and by May last year, all my savings & redundancy were gone, I'd pretty-much maxed-out all my credit cards, and emptied my overdraft. I really didn't want to lose everything, so against my doctor's advice I made the difficult decision to try and get back into work. At the time I told the Benefits Agency I was looking for work, and managed to get a small part-time contract (self-employed) for just enough to make ends meet.

 

The Benefits people were really helpful, and told me they'd sort out informing the council tax and not to worry about it. So I didn't. That was a mistake! Both of them overpaid me. I told the benefits people, but they didn't seem to do anything about recovering the overpayment, but they did stop paying me the IB. And sent me a reassuring letter, so I thought that was that and promptly forgot all about it.

 

I then got a letter from the council asking for documents to support my claim for council tax (which I thought was cancelled) so I went to their office myself and told them that they shouldn't still be paying me and that I had already started work. I provided them with the details, they sent me a bill for repayment, and will hopefully have the funds to pay the bill when it hits my bank account later this month.

 

Fraud

As far as I know, I've always told them truthful answers to any questions they've asked, but due to my mental weakness I have absolutely no confidence in myself or recollection of exactly what they asked or what I said back, so am having to rely on what paper trail I can get my hands on at such short notice.

 

I've got a nagging feeling that it's to do with the amount of rent / mortgage payments on the other house varying and so affecting my income? I just don't know what information I gave to which agencies. I thought they were all the same thing, but obviously not. If it turns out I owe them money, I'll do everything in my power to repay it, but if I get a criminal conviction for fraud, my career is effectively over! :sad:

 

Anybody know what I can do between now and Tuesday afternoon? (...other than crap myself and pace around all day & night -tried that already, it's not helping!)

 

Off topic:

...And if that doesn't make things bad enough, it looks like I'm a serial fraudster, as I didn't realise that I've supposed to have been paying extra tax on the the other house's rent money too, and I haven't been! :!: -so off to another forum to post about advice on that now too. I feel like such a failure today -what else have I got wrong too?

 

 

 

Thanks so much in advance to anybody that can offer a referral or any scraps of helpful advice,

Paul.

 

 

P.S. I promise to keep this thread updated with any "progress"

...or you can PM me if this site supports that?

...so sorry for such a long first post too.

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Paul you're not alone, there are people posting on here everyday because they have been 'invited' to attend IUC's.

That letter you got is standard by the way. I got one, & they already knew what had happened, I had already had my break down of over payments, & I had arranged to pay them back. So I was a bit floored to be invited to one too. But it was 1200 pounds, so it was inevitable I would be called in so the solicitor said anyway.

The over payment you recently had, was it a fair amount, because that alone would have them call you in, just to explain your side. And for what it's worth I think you will be capable of doing that going by how you have explained it on here.

The waking in the night & not sleeping & eating is horrible, yes.

Now, remember that you have been in touch with these people at various times, you haven't just been claiming regardless. You need to be stating at that interview that you were told things would be sorted, & you trusted them.

You keep sticking to your guns that you have done everything you though you needed to do along the way. You never knowingly did anything wrong. Make sure you keep that in the front of your mind. Because your being taped & any admission of guilt WILL be used in court.

I didn't find the IUC as bad as I had imagined. But I tend to find nothing turns out quite as bad as I imagine it's going to be.

You'll be wracking your brains thinking is it this, is it that, you'll try figuring it out, human nature, & you'll probably get there & they will mention one thing. DONT say anything apart from answer what they ask you.

You're doing the classic that we all did/do, & let your thoughts run away with you about criminal records, courts etc, I was even wondering how I can keep working where I am when my name is plastered all over the local rag for benefit fraud, it was one of the worst couple of weeks of my life to be honest.

I am still waiting to hear back from them about what action happens next, but I have paid the over payment back, it wasn't my fault, but I accepted there had been an over payment, so I wasn't entitled to it, it had to be paid back, regardless whos fault it is.

I got my head round that after I got over the anger side of it!

The interview isn't a walk in the park, but fingers crossed you have an ok person doing it like I did. But I never trust people in that position, at one point she asked me a question that I didn't understand, I answered it to the best of my knowledge & must have had a puzzled look on my face because she said it's ok, it's not a trick question. She was actually quite a nice lady. So it seems anyway.

Stop thinking about courts & criminal records, I know I know, easier said than done.

Get advice from a solicitor before you go, you certainly dont HAVE to go, they will probably tell you that, but any benefits you get will probably be stopped if you dont. Have a look on here for a solicitor that 'specialises' in welfare benefits & just had a chat, yours does sound quite complex, so it would be even better if you could manage to get a solicitor to go along with you because they can go in first & be told exactly what they will be asking you about & your solicitor will be given time to tell you...

I cant get the page to open for the site about solicitors, but it's here...

communitylegaladvice.org.uk

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Thanks for that jadeybags. I'll try and not wear the carpet out with my pacing!

 

Everything you said is very sensible, I just wish my brain or whatever would accept that and stop panicking for a minute...

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Thanks for that jadeybags. I'll try and not wear the carpet out with my pacing!

 

Everything you said is very sensible, I just wish my brain or whatever would accept that and stop panicking for a minute...

 

No problem, it was all said to me when I was going through the same worries, & yes it was good to hear, but I didn't manage to put it into practice, & ended up on Diazapam! I took 2 on the morning of the interview, in good time before I hasten to add because they can have you feeling a bit drunk for half hour or so. But I would have physically sat there shaking otherwise! Just getting the letter is enough to have you feeling guilty & that is awful when you know deep down you have done nothing intentionally wrong. She said I was a strong person (which I said you're kidding! I have been a mess) but she said no, you are & you have managed to put your side across but she had people in there before in the same situ that crumbled & said they were guilty when she knew they weren't but they couldn't take the pressure & just wanted it over, & it is horrible because it's there on tape so she cant do anything about it! They want you to tell your side, unless they are complete ogres I cant imagine anyone wanting someone to be punished for something they didn't intentionally do. I know they have targets, but that would make them worse than any benefit fraudster in my book if they just wanted to find everyone guilty even if they're not. How sick would that be.

x

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  • 2 weeks later...

Quick update. The interview, or should that be "kangaroo court interrogation" was as bad as I had feared, but thankfully my solicitor saved the day. The "investigation" was basically leading questions that tried to make me confess guilt to something my solicitor said was not my fault and that I was "in the clear". I don't know what will happen next, other than being told "it depends what my manager says". So I may or may not get asked to attend further interviews.

 

In the mean time the elbow-end of the department has caught up and sent a letter that arrived a couple of days after the interview telling me about how to make arrangements for the overpayment and apologising for a "breakdown in communication between departments that lead to the recovery being delayed for so long"! If it wasn't so stressful I'd be laughing at how ridiculous it all is...

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Hi.

Just read your story and I've had a similar issue myself. I was invited to a IUC in January. Out of the blue got a lovely letter saying they suspected me of commiting benefit fraud!!! I had no clue why, we'd only claimed it from April 2010 to Nov 2010 after i lost my job. Anyway my interview was fine, the woman was lovely and really put me at ease. Before the interview I'd spoken to a solicitor who'd looked over my paper work and he said it would be with regard to an increase in tax credits! Silly I know but it never occured to me to let the council know that our working tax credit incresed in June. Like I said my interview was fine and I said what the solicitor had advised about, that after seaking legal advice I was now aware that I should have reported a change in tax credits.

Anyway I was told 4 weeks and I would hear something, I got a letter today! and what a nasty piece of a letter it is too. It basically says that we where overpaid by £212.00 and they have offered me an administrartive penalty of £61.00. I have to attend yet another interview in April so they can explain all about this penalty and if I am going to agree to pay it. But basically the letters saying if i dont pay it they'll take me to court! Really upset about this again, I never purposly mislead them about anything but yet they make it sound on the letter that they have a real case against me if i dont cough up the £61.00!!!!!! I'm going to post another thread shortly and see if anyone elses had a similar thing, finding it hard to find any others with my problem. hope all goes well for you, keep us posted.

x

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????? i thought a penalty was a less of the 2

 

All depends how much the over payment is really doesn't it. Our council doesn't even ask people in for interviews under caution if the amount is under 500 quid, so the compliance officer told me anyway. But I dont trust what they say anymore. My over payment was 1200. I took a loan out to pay it back, the loan is 30 quid a month, the over payment dept wouldn't take less than a 100 a month. Couldn't afford that. So I could end up having to pay yet another 400 quid abouts, if they give me a penalty. And i'm not accepting a caution as I didn't intentionally do anything wrong!

That's when it's no more Mrs nice guy from me, they can take me to court. Had my fill of em now. Could take them 2 months to let me know. They're just going to OTT with people these days.

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  • 2 months later...
No problem, it was all said to me when I was going through the same worries, & yes it was good to hear, but I didn't manage to put it into practice, & ended up on Diazapam! I took 2 on the morning of the interview, in good time before I hasten to add because they can have you feeling a bit drunk for half hour or so. But I would have physically sat there shaking otherwise! Just getting the letter is enough to have you feeling guilty & that is awful when you know deep down you have done nothing intentionally wrong. She said I was a strong person (which I said you're kidding! I have been a mess) but she said no, you are & you have managed to put your side across but she had people in there before in the same situ that crumbled & said they were guilty when she knew they weren't but they couldn't take the pressure & just wanted it over, & it is horrible because it's there on tape so she cant do anything about it! They want you to tell your side, unless they are complete ogres I cant imagine anyone wanting someone to be punished for something they didn't intentionally do. I know they have targets, but that would make them worse than any benefit fraudster in my book if they just wanted to find everyone guilty even if they're not. How sick would that be.

x

 

Could you tell me who your solicitor was? am in a similar situation and completely cracking up

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  • 6 months later...
I was even wondering how I can keep working where I am when my name is plastered all over the local rag for benefit fraud

 

I've seen a few people named in the local press and wondered if they'd changed their name by deed poll before the court case would they be prosecuted under their 'new' name - which would presumably appear in the press.

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  • 9 months later...

I'm new too and have revived this thread because I too have received a letter from my council. It doesn't seem as scary as the one quoted above; no mention of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and no mention of Council Tax Benefit Fraud but it does ask me in "for interview ... to discuss your claim". I have recently returned my accounts for my business (as I do every year) and also told them I have reduced my working hours which has reduced my Working Tax Credit but there is no hint of what they want to talk about and the word "interview" rather than "meeting" is frightening. Could anyone throw any light on what this is likely to be about? Will this be like the ones I have seen on TV - under caution and recorded. I have tried so hard to do the right thing including reducing my declared working hours when I couldn't do as many because of the care needs of my mother. Could you also tell me what IUC stands for? Thank you for being here.

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I'm new too and have revived this thread because I too have received a letter from my council. It doesn't seem as scary as the one quoted above; no mention of the Police and Criminal Evidence Act and no mention of Council Tax Benefit Fraud but it does ask me in "for interview ... to discuss your claim". I have recently returned my accounts for my business (as I do every year) and also told them I have reduced my working hours which has reduced my Working Tax Credit but there is no hint of what they want to talk about and the word "interview" rather than "meeting" is frightening. Could anyone throw any light on what this is likely to be about? Will this be like the ones I have seen on TV - under caution and recorded. I have tried so hard to do the right thing including reducing my declared working hours when I couldn't do as many because of the care needs of my mother. Could you also tell me what IUC stands for? Thank you for being here.

 

IUC stands for Interview Under Caution, so yes it will be recorded. I think you may need to find a solicitor to accompany you to the interview. They seem to be able to gain information before the interview that they can then discuss with you before you go in to the interview, helps you be a little bit prepared.

Hopefully others will be along soon with advice too.

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Thank you for your reply - I am terrified. I cannot think what I may have done wrong. Doesn't it have to say in the letter if it is going to be "under caution"? Or does the "request that you attend my offices for interview" cover them. Where do I find a solicitor - how am I supposed to pay them?

 

edited: sorry to throw questions at you.

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Thank you for your reply - I am terrified. I cannot think what I may have done wrong. Doesn't it have to say in the letter if it is going to be "under caution"? Or does the "request that you attend my offices for interview" cover them. Where do I find a solicitor - how am I supposed to pay them?

 

edited: sorry to throw questions at you.

 

Hang on, let's take a step back. Does your letter use state IUC anywhere? If not then maybe it is just a basic interview that will not be recorded but one where they want to double check things. They use the word interview for lots of things, I have to attend single parent interviews now and again too and they are just meetings.

I've jumped to the conclusion that your letter states IUC, hence my advice of a solicitor, I apologise now if I jumped to the wrong conclusion.

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My fault for asking the question at the same time as asking what the letter is about. No (huge sighs) it doesn't state IUC so just a basic interview then. My anxiety levels have come down a bit from when I first read it but up 'til now everyone has been very helpful, even coming out to see me at home, finding more money for my mum, etc., so this was a shock. I am just glad you are here to help. I feel such a wimp and would really like to just go an hide under the duvet. It seems to me that some of the most complex systems are expected to be used by people when in their most vunerable and least able state.

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