‘Report a cheat on your street’ call after women admit Stevenage council house fraud offences

Two women have admitted committing fraud during cases heard at Stevenage Magistrates' Court.

Two women have admitted committing fraud during cases heard at Stevenage Magistrates' Court. - Credit: Archant

Two women have admitted fraud in Stevenage after one sublet her council house and another falsely claimed a council tax discount.

Michelle White pleaded guilty to subletting her council property at Baron Court in the town while living with her partner at Exeter Close between 2013 and May 2016.

The 46-year-old received a 24-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £800 towards the costs of the prosecution, together with a £15 victim surcharge.

White was said to be remorseful and co-operated with the enquiry throughout. She immediately returned the keys for the council house when she was found of wrong-doing, which has since been used to house someone on Stevenage Borough Council’s waiting list.

In a separate case at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court, Maria Louca of Vintners Avenue was claiming a single person reduction in her council tax but was found to be living together with her husband.

The 27-year-old failed to report her true circumstances to the borough council and, between 2013 and 2016, fraudulently obtained council tax discounts of £940.

After pleading guilty, Maria received a 24-month conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £1,421 towards the costs of the prosecution, together with a £15 victim surcharge.

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She told the court that she had already made arrangements to pay back the money she had previously defrauded from the council.

Both cases were led by the Shared Anti-Fraud Service, a partnership of six Hertfordshire councils – including Stevenage Borough Council and North Herts District Council – investigating reports of fraud.

About the partnership’s work, Councillor Joan Lloyd, executive member for resources at Stevenage Borough Council, said: “I would like to thank the officers who dealt with these cases for all their hard work as it once again shows the importance of the Shared Anti-Fraud Service.

“All council services are funded by taxpayers, so when people commit council tax, tenancy or Blue Badge fraud, they are stealing from their own community.”

SAFS is spearheading an anti-fraud, awareness-raising campaign called Spot the Cheater, which is run by Herts County Council.

The campaign calls on residents to come forward and report empty council houses, people subletting their council houses while secretly living elsewhere, and people using Blue Badges for disabled parking that don’t belong to them. Fraud costs the county’s taxpayers an estimated £7.8 million every year.

Councillor Chris Hayward, cabinet member for resources and performance at County Hall, said: “We are always looking for ways to get the best value for money and this innovative new partnership is already cutting fraud and saving money from Hertfordshire’s public purse.

“Last year the Spot the Cheater campaign generated a significant increase in reports. It’s not fair that you pay your taxes, while other people get away without paying them. I’d call on residents to continue to do the right thing – report a cheat on your street.”

You can report suspected fraud in the strictest confidence. For information, and to report, visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/spotfraud, email fraud.team@hertscc.gcsx.gov.uk or call 0300 123 4033.

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