Rugby man claimed £20,000 in benefits

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A Rugby man has been ordered to carry out 120 hours unpaid work after fraudulently claiming more than £20,000 in benefits.

George McCrae, of Knole Close, pleaded guilty at Nuneaton Magistrates Court on Monday (8 September) to failing to inform Rugby Borough Council of a change in his circumstances.

Magistrates heard how Mr McCrae applied to the council for council tax and housing benefits in January 2010 as he was only working six hours a week.

But after noticing a change in his tax credits, the council contacted the 37-year-old in July last year to request information about his earnings and copies of wage slips.

When McCrae failed to respond to the request his benefits were suspended in October. The council sent three further letters requesting information and in January of this year he sent a number of wage slips which revealed a significant increase in his income.

After McCrae ignored a further request for copies of recent P60s, the council contacted his employer - when it was discovered he had been working full-time since 1 April 2010.

During a near four-year period, McCrae fraudulently claimed £16,007.25 in housing benefit and £4,560.84 in council tax benefit - a total of £20,568.09.

In mitigation, the court was told McCrae had informed the Department of Work and Pensions about the change in his circumstances, and he had not intended to deceive the council.

The court also heard McCrae had started to repay the fraudulently claimed benefits.

Magistrates sentenced McCrae to a community order with a requirement to carry out 120 hours of unpaid work. He was also ordered to pay £400 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.

Speaking after the hearing, Cllr Leigh Hunt, Rugby Borough Council portfolio holder for sustainable communities, said: “Benefit fraud costs the taxpayer a considerable amount of money and we’re determined to catch those who cheat the system.

“However, while we’re committed to cracking down on benefit fraud, we’re also here to help.

“Anyone who has concerns about their benefit claim, or who is uncertain about how their circumstances affect their claim, should contact the council’s benefits team.”

Residents can contact the benefits team on (01788) 533433.

To report suspected cases of benefit fraud, call the council in the strictest confidence on (01788) 533460 or email benefits.unit@rugby.gov.uk