Checking the cheats
FRAUDSTERS and benefit cheats were caught in an undercover sting operation last week. A team of officers from Mid Beds District Council, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department of Work and Pensions, Beds Police and Trading Standards swooped on areas of Big
FRAUDSTERS and benefit cheats were caught in an undercover sting operation last week.
A team of officers from Mid Beds District Council, HM Revenue and Customs, the Department of Work and Pensions, Beds Police and Trading Standards swooped on areas of Biggleswade and Sandy.
Now the council is encouraging residents to shop the cheats so they can be brought to justice.
The officers were all part of Operation Bedspring which set out to question tradesmen out working in both towns.
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The team interviewed a number of people, checking for income tax and VAT registration and whether welfare benefits were being claimed, including housing and council tax benefits.
The operation was also looking for rogue traders such as unqualified workmen offering to make repairs on homes, offering to tarmac driveways, or doing gardening jobs often badly and at a hugely inflated cost.
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At the end of the operation covering several days, one man had been arrested in Biggleswade for a breach of a community punishment order.
Officers also uncovered two possible serious fraud cases in Biggleswade and Sandy which are now under investigation.
During the operation six ghost workers were discovered - people not known to HM Revenue and Customs - and three people were found while claiming benefits - one was a plasterer, one was delivering leaflets and one was a car washer.
Many businesses in Biggleswade and Sandy also signed up for the Trading Standards approved contractors scheme which will fight fraud and rogue traders in the towns.
Sharon Wallace, senior investigating officer at Mid Beds District Council, said: "The operation last week follows a hugely successful four-week operation in May last year.
"The legitimate tradesmen we spoke to last week were glad to see us out again.
"Committing fraud is a criminal offence and Mid Beds District Council takes this matter very seriously.
"We will investigate and could prosecute anyone claiming council tax or housing benefits illegally. Benefits cheats cost the taxpayer more."
And she warned: "We are also on the lookout for rogue traders, who don't pay tax and often undercut legitimate traders.
"We would encourage residents to help us catch these people and suspected benefit cheats by calling our investigation hotline on 01525 842150.