A Briton who lived in Mazarrón, in southwest Spain, and claimed that being penniless and homeless had left him no choice but to make a fraudulent claim for benefit has been handed two suspended prison sentences and ordered to repay in full the wrongfully claimed cash.
69-year-old Michael Dugdale from Preston failed to declare that he owned 50% of a property in Mazarrón, Murcia when making a claim for Pension Credit in 2007. An important detail which he again omitted on a review claim form 3 years later, in 2010.
Thanks to an anonymous tip-off via the Benefit Fraud Hotline, DWP fraud teams based in the UK and Spain launched an investigation into his claim to uncover the truth. Despite initially denying any wrongdoing, Dugdale was finally forced to admit to the fraud when presented with the Spanish property documents clearly showing that he owned 50% of the Spanish property with his ex-partner.
Dugdale stated that his dire economic situation on his return to the UK from Spain in 2007 had left him no choice but to make a bogus claim for a benefit he knew he was not entitled to.
He pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court to two charges of benefit fraud totalling over £35,000 and was given two 8-month suspended prison sentences for each charge and ordered to repay the stolen funds in full or face imprisonment.
Income-related benefits such as Pension Credit or Income Support cannot be claimed if you live outside of the UK. And if you do live in the UK and make a claim, you must declare any property you own abroad as well as any in the UK. Not doing so is considered to be a criminal offence.
If you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud, call the Benefit Fraud Hotline in Spain on 900 554 440. Lines are open 8am-4pm, Monday to Friday, and all calls are free and confidential. Alternatively you can report benefit fraud online at www.gov.uk/report-benefit-fraud
The British Embassy and its network of consulates in Spain work with local and expat partner organisations to assist British nationals.
Consular enquiries – 902 109 356 (in Spain) / +34 913 342 194 (outside Spain)
British nationals who need emergency assistance outside normal office hours should call +34 902 109 356 where they will be given details on how to proceed and how to contact a duty officer if needed.