A PAIR of fraudsters who bagged more than £100,000 in benefits that they weren’t entitled to could still have to pay the cash back – and a Bournemouth councillor has slammed their sentence as a “slap in the face”.
As reported in the Daily Echo, Amanda Casserley, 34, and Andrew Hayes, 39, both of Spring Road, Bournemouth, were handed suspended jail terms at Bournemouth Crown Court last Friday.
The judge said that the pair should have been going to jail, but he spared them after concerns were raised over care for their four children.
Instead, their 12-month prison terms were suspended for two years and Casserley was ordered to do 180 hours of unpaid work, while Hayes was given an overnight curfew.
No confiscation order or order for court costs to be paid was made, but it has now emerged that the pair could still be pursued by the Government.
Bournemouth Borough Council helped the DWP bring Casserley and Hayes to justice.
Cllr Anne Filer, portfolio holder for corporate efficiency, said: “I am shocked and very angry to learn that this couple, who have cheated Bournemouth taxpayers out of more than £106,000 in such a deliberate and calculated way, have not been sentenced to jail nor have had to pay costs.
“The vast majority of Bournemouth residents are honest and hard-working and this derisible sentence is a real slap in the face for us all, giving out a message that cheats and liars can get away with such blatant behaviour.”
She added that the council had a “dedicated” team investigating fraud and it was “disappointing to say the least” that the couple were allowed to walk free.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “On top of any sentence imposed by the court, anyone convicted of benefit fraud ends up with a criminal record and we will always seek to recover the stolen money and have introduced tougher new rules against fraudsters.”
The court heard that Casserley failed to notify the DWP that she was no longer a single parent after Hayes moved back in with her.
She continued to claim benefits that she was no longer entitled to for another decade, while Hayes earned money as well as receiving benefits.
In mitigation, the court was told the motivation for the offence was to provide for the family.
The council’s Fraud Referral Hotline on 01202 451536.
THE DWP spokesman said that investigators were making greater use of Proceeds of Crime Act powers, with up to 40 per cent of benefits or wages being able to be taken to speed up the return of fraudulently-claimed cash.
The DWP’s financial investigation unit can also obtain orders to make convicted benefits cheats sell their possessions to repay stolen money.
Those convicted also face a loss of benefits of 13 weeks for a first offence.