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'Filey' Benefits Cheat Brought to Justice

scarborough magistrates court

Published at 4:36pm 17th November 2015

It was a case of history repeating itself as benefits cheat, Frankie Luders, found himself in front of Scarborough Magistrates Court last week, charged with nine counts of benefit fraud against Scarborough Borough Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Luders, 60, of Woodlands Mount, Halifax, West Yorkshire, was jailed for 27 weeks, which at more than six months, is three weeks for each of the nine offences.

He was previously convicted in 2013 of ten counts of benefit fraud and was still subject to the terms of the community order placed on him at that time when he committed his latest crimes, which included making multiple false statements, failing to declare changes of circumstances and giving a false document.

Luders dishonestly obtained more than £1600 of housing benefit by making claims at two addresses in Filey, which he did not live in, one after the other, and by counterfeiting a property owner’s signature. He also made claims for jobseeker’s allowance and employment and support allowance to DWP while working. The total value of benefits Luders took from the public purse was in excess of £6000.

In defence, the court heard that the offences were due to Luders’ gambling addiction, which had caused difficulties in his marriage, leading to a temporary separation from his wife. Luders was described as a relatively unskilled man and it was argued that a custodial sentence would mean him losing his current job and being unlikely to find work after prison, making timely repayment of the benefits more unlikely. The court also heard Luders was repentant and offered repayment of £50 per month.

The arguments won no sympathy in court. The Magistrates, taking into account the size of the loss to the council and the DWP and that Luders had re-offended while still under the terms of the original community order, immediately handed down a custodial sentence.

Alison Johnson, Scarborough Borough Council Audit and Fraud Manager said:

“We are very pleased that Luders has been given an appropriate sentence for the serious and systematic fraud he committed. The custodial sentence sends a clear message to anyone who is claiming benefits fraudulently or is thinking about it - don’t do it!

“A criminal record can significantly affect a person’s future and in more serious and repeated cases such as this, can even lead to loss of liberty.”

A spokesperson for the DWP added:

“We know that the vast majority of people play by the rules, however this case shows our investigators are cracking down on criminals who defraud the system to make sure they are brought to justice. Working while claiming is the most common benefit fraud and we are committed to stopping it.

“Universal Credit will simplify and automate the welfare system, reducing fraud by £200m a year when rolled out fully across the country. By linking benefit claims with tax, our teams will be able to see almost immediately if a claimant is lying about work, to stop fraudulent claims.”

Every year benefit cheats cost local authorities and the DWP an estimated £2 billion in stolen benefits. The total cost of this fraud is equivalent to £80 a year from each family in Great Britain.

The council dealt with 317 investigations in the year 2014/2015 and £313,217.62 in fraudulent overpayments was detected, which have to be paid back to the council. In addition, the council successfully prosecuted 22 individuals for fraud and issued a further 47 cautions and penalties.

Anyone wanting to report fraud in the Scarborough Borough Council area can call the fraud hotline, in confidence, on 0800 056 8154

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