A couple in their 60s have been brought to justice after lying about their Spanish home in order to claim a string of UK benefits including a council house.
Married couple Michael and Sylvia Plumridge from Sonning in Wokingham fraudulently claimed over £16,000 in UK benefits. They failed to declare to benefit officials that Mrs Plumridge was in fact the owner of a luxury apartment in Torrevieja in Alicante province, where they both lived until they moved back to the UK in 2010.
After their return to Britain the pair claimed a string of benefits including pension credit and housing and council tax benefit, whilst keeping details of Sylvia’s Spanish property and her private NHS pension a secret from benefit officials. They even applied for and were granted a council property, claiming they had nowhere else to live.
As a result of failing to declare their true circumstances to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) the Plumridges were sentenced at Reading Magistrates Court to a 12 month community order with 240 hours unpaid work, as well as being ordered to pay back the benefit they had received fraudulently and a further £1,235 to cover the cost of the investigation.
Julie Holland of Wokingham Borough Council’s business assurance team, who helped bring the fraudsters to justice, said,
“With such a high demand for social housing and with taxpayers’ money being so tight, it is vitally important that we make sure that council houses and public money only go to those who really need it.
“Every council property that goes to the wrong person costs the council tax payers of Wokingham Borough an extra £18,000. We will continue to go after fraudsters who think they can cheat the system and get away with it.”
Benefit fraud takes taxpayers’ money away from those that need it most. If you suspect someone of committing benefit fraud in Spain, do call the free and confidential fraud hotline in Spain on 900 55 44 40 or fill in the form at www.dwp.gov.uk/benefit-thieves-spain. Investigators will then follow up to make sure that taxpayers’ money is going to honest citizens.