Suspended jail sentence for Northumberland benefits cheat

News from the courts.
News from the courts.

A benefits cheat from Northumberland who illegally claimed more than £26,000 has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Christine Ballario-Button, 52, of Wishaw Close, Cramlington, pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change of circumstances regarding council tax and housing benefits.

She admitted to dishonestly failing to tell Northumberland County Council that she had returned to full-time employment following a brief period of sickness in 2007, which resulted in an overpayment of housing and council-tax benefits totalling £26,522 and she continued to claim benefits to August 2014.

She appeared at Mid and South East Northumberland Magistrates Court yesterday and was given a 16-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, as well as a 10-week curfew. She was ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £80 and legal costs of £75 as well as the repayments of the overpayment of benefit.

The prosecution follows an investigation by the county council’s fraud investigation team. The authority has already started to recover the overpaid benefit.

Jane Swaddle, corporate fraud team manager at the county council, said: “Fraud costs law-abiding residents and this prosecution serves as a warning to the small minority of people who choose to flout the law.

“We are determined to protect the public purse and save taxpayers and the council money and we will take steps in all cases of fraud to recover monies owed to the council.”

Northumberland County Council’s fraud team has carried out more than 500 investigations since April 1 last year, resulting in another person being sent to prison for three years and 10 suspended sentences for fraud offenders, and has detected £1.5million of fraud in its first nine months.

Anyone who suspects that fraud is being committed can report it to the corporate fraud team online or by ringing the fraud hotline 01670 624359.