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Prosecution for benefit fraud


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Firstly can I just say that i feel about as **** as can possibly be so would be grateful if people could refrain from judging me for this. I need advice not slating.

 

The situation is this. Back at the end of 2011 I was claiming JSA, and so was getting full housing and council tax benefit. I should say at this point, I am a single parent of 3.

In the November of that year a friend approached me about childminding for her daughter. As her daughter was over 8, so i'd not need to be registered, I decided to do it.

I signed off from JSA at the job centre, registered as self employed and told tax credits, so I could claim WTC.

Now I honestly do not know wether I informed housing and council tax benefits of my change in circumstances. I thought I had, but now I am not sure. If I didn't then this wasn't intentional, and I stood to gain nothing at all from not telling them, as I was only earning £50 a week from the childminding, and so would have been entitled to full HB and CTB anyway.

 

Foolishly, when I was doing the childminding I didn't keep any receipts. I know this is incredibly stupid, but there you go. I filled in a tax return, put down what i'd earnt and was never asked for any more evidence.

 

In March 2013 I got a job in a nursery and so stopped childminding. As I was earning more, i knew i'd be entitled to less HB and CTB and so filled in a change of circumstances form online.

In July I got a letter from DWP saying I had to attend and interview under caution as they suspected benefit fraud.

 

At the interview they basically went back through years of me claiming, from being on benefits and whenever I had worked and said 'look you have always told us everything, but we never were informed that you were self employed, so you must have deliberatly not told us'

I agreed that it did look like I hadn't informed them, but that if that was the case then it was a genuine mistake and not an attempt to claim fraudulently as I would have been entitled anyway so what would have been the point. They then said that I have no proof that I was only earning £50 a week, and could have been earning hundreds.

 

Over the next few mths I then had letters from them asking to see 6mths worth of bank statements, which I supplied, and my tax return which I also supplied. I then heard nothing at all until this Friday just gone when a huge envelope landed on my door mat and I discovered I was being summoned to court for 2 counts of benefit fraud totaling just over £8300.

I am due to appear in court on 4th Dec, so have less than 2 weeks to sort anything out, where they have had nearly 18mths.

I have contacted a solicitor who won't do a fat lot until they have my legal aid forms back and who assumed I would be pleading guilty and warned I could face a custodial sentence.

 

I just do not know what to do. If I am guilty of anything it is a genuine mistake, from which I didn't benefit financially at all as I was entitled anyway, but they cannot seem to understand that.

I cannot go to prison, I am sole carer for 3 children, one of whom is registered disabled as she has mental health problems and another who is undergoing assessments for learning delays.

 

I dont know wether I should be pleading guilty or not. I think even if i plead not guilty I will get found guilty anyway, so either way I am going to have a criminal record and my life is screwed. Plus if i plead not guilty and then I am found guilty, that will go against me won't it.

 

Please help

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I did recieve a letter a long time ago saying i'd be overpaid but with no explanation as to why, and that they would start claiming it back. I just assumed that that was a cock up on their part and my HB was reduced by £10 a week for this. When i mentioned this at my interview under caution, the person interviewing me said she knew nothing about that anyway.

 

I have contacted a solicitor but i'm not sure how good they will be. They assumed i'd be pleading guilty. I am to send them all of my paperwork tomorrow along with forms for legal aid, but I wont get to actually see them to discuss my case until the morning of the hearing.

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May I ask what benefit do they think was overpaid? Just HB/CT?

 

If there was nothing untoward showing in your bank statements, or your tax returns then they can't really speculate that you've been earning thousands, can they? Surely they would need proof?

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The situation is this. Back at the end of 2011 I was claiming JSA, and so was getting full housing and council tax benefit.

I signed off from JSA at the job centre

 

First thing: We are not here to judge.

 

Can you remember if you filled out a form when closing your JSA claim, if so, can you recall what you wrote ?

 

When I last "signed off", the local JCP office insisted I completed the back page of my claimant booklet, signed and dated it. If you had done the same and put "going self employed" in the relevant box, this might go some way to substantiating a claim that you had informed the DWP of a "change of circumstances" - Don't suppose you kept a copy ?

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I'm assuming this is re HB/CTB, If the original benefit and overpayment decision was less than 13 months ago, then you can make a late appeal against the decision. An appeal would allow you to present evidence to a judge regarding the benefit decision and overpayment. If the judge decides in your favour then there would be no overpayment and no criminal case to answer. You would need to get your solicitor to try and get the criminal case delayed until after the appeal and you would need to ask for the appeal to be expedited. You would also need to seek a specialist benefit adviser to help you prepare your case to get the best result at the appeal hearing.

 

If the decision was more than 13 months ago then you need to seek the advice of your solicitor on how to plead and what and whether to argue the criminal case.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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Can you remember if you filled out a form when closing your JSA claim, if so, can you recall what you wrote ?

 

I'm confused. If somebody's no longer claiming what does it matter?

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Can you remember if you filled out a form when closing your JSA claim, if so, can you recall what you wrote ?

 

I'm confused. If somebody's no longer claiming what does it matter?

 

Mitigating the DWP accusation that "you failed to inform us" - Whilst not a defence against the overpayment, it could be used to demonstrate there was no intent to defraud.

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The OP said she signed off JSA when she became self employed, hence me assuming we were talking about HB and 'DWP' was just an error and she meant to say LA. Could well be wrong.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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I was confused because the OP is saying the DWP contacted her about fraud rather then the local council

 

Likewise - Unless the IUC was conducted jointly by the DWP and the L.A.

If it is the L.A. bringing the prosecution, then my question about the JSA form would be irrelevant.

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I am also very confused. tbh. They are saying the fraud ran from Dec 2011 - March 2013. This is the time that I was self employed.

The over payment is for housing and council tax benefit. They are saying that I failed to inform them that I was SE and failed to inform them that I was now getting Working tax credits. Didn't even know I had to do that last bit.

 

Before I was interviewed under caution I did recieve letters from Birmingham city council about an overpayment but there was no explanation as to when it was for and I was totally confused. They deducted £10 a week from my housing benefit for the HB overpayment which I have been paying ever since (does this come of the total that they are saying i owe ??). They have never contacted me regarding paying back the council tax overpayment.

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Oh I did sign off JSA yes. I'm not sure if i had to fill in a reason, but if i did then I would have put that I was becoming self employed. The advisor I saw knew all about it. I may still have some stuff from then, but i don't think they gave me a copy of the actual booklet i signed.

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Right, I have found a letter from the job centre. It is a copy of all of the claims I have ever made and jobs I had and listed on 06/12/2011 is 'Signposted to Birmingham Chamber of commerce for advice as is going self employed. ES40 handed to in and out of work team.' The es40 is my signing on book i assume, as i would have signed off.

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May 2013

 

Because it just said it was an overpayment, I just assumed they had cocked up, not me and so didn't even check it, stupidly I know.

It totals roughly £8300 for the housing benefit and council tax benefit overpayments.

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I'll be honest and say I didn't even really read the letters properly as they sent lots which all looked exactly the same. It covers two address aswell, cos i moved, so that makes it more complicated.

Hmm thats a point, I wonder if when I moved I showed them anything to do with being self employed. I don't remember being asked for that, just proof or new address and rent amount.

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May 2013

 

Because it just said it was an overpayment, I just assumed they had cocked up, not me and so didn't even check it, stupidly I know.

It totals roughly £8300 for the housing benefit and council tax benefit overpayments.

 

I'm sorry, but unfortunately this is outside the appeal window, so from a benefit perspective, the overpayment stands and is not changeable. The only thing you can do is to take legal advice as to how to deal with the criminal case.

We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office ~ Aesop

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