A TOUGH crackdown on tax and benefits cheats in Huddersfield is on the way.
And a telephone hotline was set up today to encourage people to shop fraudsters.
Kirklees Council plans to get even tougher with people swindling the system of hundreds of thousands of pounds.
And officials hope the examples of three cheats taken before the courts will hammer home the warning.
They are currently investigating 188 suspected cheats.
Clr Gordon Beever, the council Cabinet's member for finance and legal services, today warned all housing benefit and council tax benefit cheats.
He said the council's revenues and benefits service was pursuing a rigorous programme aimed to stamp out fraud.
On average, one customer a month is being prosecuted.
Benefit cheats are being handed penalties ranging from fines to suspended prison sentences and tagging orders.
In addition, the service has powers to issue formal cautions, which appear on an offender's record for five years.
Also, there are administration penalties which allow the council to add an extra 30% to any identified benefit over-payment which the offender has to repay.
Of the 188 cases on which the investigation team is working, some will end up in court.
Others will result in over-payments of housing benefit being recovered and sanctions being imposed.
Clr Beever said: "The revenues and benefits service are determined to spot and deal with benefit fraudsters.
"It is wrong to think that cheating the benefits system of money is a victimless crime, as we all pay for it.
"It is our policy to prosecute offenders," he added.
The revenues and benefit service has set up a freephone hotline for the public to report benefit cheats.
The phone number is 0800 7311705.
Clr Beever added: "In order to help the investigation team catch these swindlers, members of the public are urged to provide as much information as possible about the fraud that is suspected.
"This could include such information like names and addresses of employers, and any specific hours worked," he said.
"Numbers of cars and vans driven, and names of undeclared partners or household members, could also be useful in order to help the team get a successful result," added Clr Beever, ending his plea to the public.
CASE STUDY A
THE service received an allegation that Miss A was receiving a Families Tax Credit but had not declared this income on her claim form for housing benefit.
She illegally received income between June, 2001, and December, 2002, which had not been declared.
Miss A had received £3,817.69 more benefit than she was entitled to. She pleaded guilty to the charges brought against her.
As well as having to repay the money Miss A has been ordered to serve a six-month Community Rehabilitation Order for her deceit.
CASE STUDY B
MR B claimed Incapacity Benefit since 1993. He had been claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit since August, 1994, but had claimed that a works pension was his only income.
Mr B was taken to court in June, 2003, and attended court and pleaded guilty to all five charges against him.
Magistrates imposed a two-year Community Rehabilitation Order against him, which requires him to remain under supervision of a probation officer throughout that time.
He was also ordered to pay £300 towards costs, and has a £12,556.67 overpayment of benefit to repay.
CASE STUDY C
MR C was receiving over £150 per week in Industrial Disablement Benefit.
Our investigation team confirmed that he had received this income since 1990, but had not declared this income on his housing benefit claim forms covering the periods from August 29, 1997, to August 28, 2002.
He appeared in court in September where he pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him.
He was given a three-month curfew order between the hours of 10pm and 6am and was ordered to pay £300 costs.
Mr C also has an overpayment of benefit amounting to £14,541.52 to repay.
Related stories and messageboards