Letchworth woman, 50, pleads guilty to benefit fraud after receiving large inheritance

A woman was sentenced at Stevenage Magistrates' Court to 100 hours unpaid work.

A woman was sentenced at Stevenage Magistrates' Court to 100 hours unpaid work. - Credit: Archant

A 50-year-old woman from Letchworth has been sentenced to 100 hours of unpaid work after pleading guilty to benefit fraud.

Jacqueline Sapstead, who lives in Broughton Hill, failed to report a significant change in her circumstances after receiving an inheritance of about £63,000, which resulted in her being paid almost £7,000 in housing benefit and council tax benefit which she wasn’t entitled to.

Ms Sapstead appeared at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court on Friday, where she was ordered to pay £1,006.25 in prosecution costs.

After receiving her inheritance, Ms Sapstead had made an application for a discretionary housing payment to help her cover the cost of her rent – a payment reserved for people who are most vulnerable.

She will now repay the remaining overpayment of £4,143.27 through deductions to her ongoing benefit.

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While delivering the sentence the magistrates stated that they saw Ms Sapstead’s actions as being ‘very serious indeed’.

The prosecution was brought about by North Hertfordshire District Council in collaboration with Hertfordshire County Council’s new Shared Anti-Fraud Service.

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Councillor Terry Hone, who is the district council’s executive member for finance and IT, said: “Even though Ms Sapstead originally claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit legitimately, she failed to notify the council of her change in circumstances, which took her savings above the permitted amount of £16,000.

“It is far better to tell us about changes now rather than wait for a discrepancy to be revealed through a data matching exercises by the SAFS.

“We take fraud extremely seriously and anyone claiming benefits that they are not entitled to will be prosecuted.”

Christopher Hayward, who is the cabinet member for resources and performance at the county council, said: “Fraud committed against councils affects everyone.

“All council services are funded by taxpayers and where fraud occurs it means that money goes to people who are not entitled to it and reduces the money available for services that residents need, such as schools, highways, housing, leisure services, community safety, health care and social services.

“Our councils have good fraud defences, but fraudsters are constantly looking to gain an advantage and this innovative new partnership working will cut fraud and save money from Hertfordshire’s public purse.”

You can let the district council know of a change in circumstance by visiting www.north-herts.gov.uk, emailing benefits@north-herts.gov.uk or 01462 474597.

For more information or to report a fraud visit www.hertsdirect.org/reportfraud, email fraud.team@hertscc.gcsx.gov.uk or call 0300 123 4033.

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