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A benefit fraudster spared jail sentence (12 October 2012)

Date: 12/10/2012
Duncan Lewis, Legal News Solicitors, A benefit fraudster spared jail sentence

Jonathan Lincoln, 30, a benefits officer has avoided being sent to jail after he was caught by colleagues fraudulently claiming council tax discount after he posted on social media websites about his family.
He was exposed after he failed stringent ID and address checks for staff working in the benefits department of Medway Council.
His colleagues were dismayed to have found Jonathan a married and father of two illegally claiming a 25 percent council tax discount for living as a single person. He also ignored to his wife Ellen Lincoln’s bogus income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit claims.
The judge, recorder Joshua Swirsky, sentenced him to a 16-week prison sentence suspended for one year, ordered him to carry out 150 hours community service and to pay £500 towards costs. He gave Mrs Lincoln, 29, a conditional discharge for 12 months.
Sentencing Mr Lincoln, Mr Swirsky told him that his case was considerably aggravated and that he breached the trust of his employers. He said the public would feel cheated if it was not treated as a serious offence.
After colleagues were alerted to the matter, surveillance was carried out on the address Mrs Lincoln was claiming from to prove Mr Lincoln also lived there.
Investigators checked his bank and utility bill records as well as social media and other internet websites.
During the probe they discovered he repeatedly wrote on his open Facebook wall about holidays to Disneyland Paris and other places with his wife and their children.
Posts about the couple having rows, spending time together for their wedding anniversary and buying presents for each other were also put on his Facebook wall, which was open for anyone to see.
Mr Lincoln started working for Medway Council in 2006 as a customer services officer and made claims for a 25 per cent living alone discount on his council tax for two addresses in Gillingham – Davenport Avenue and then Gardiner Street.
In December 2009, he applied to move departments at the council and took up work as a trainee benefit assessor, assessing claims for council tax benefit and housing benefit.
But when he failed to provide documentation required under vetting procedures his colleagues noticed a discrepancy in his personal details held on council computers.
He was charged and later admitted in court making false representations to claim a single person discount on his council tax in April 2007 in relation to the Davenport Avenue address and a similar count for making a false claim in July 2009 for the Gardiner Street home.
He also pleaded guilty to two counts of allowing or prompting his wife to falsely claim income support and housing benefit and council tax benefit between December 2010 and August 2011.
His wife also pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify a change in circumstances in relation to living with her husband, who was working, while she claimed income support and council tax benefit and housing benefit.
Benefit fraud solicitor defending Mr Lincoln, said his client started claiming single person allowance for council tax before he took up work with Medway Council’s benefit team.
He added that his client did not have the strength of character or the honesty to stop the claim when he started with Medway Council. He had let down himself, his family, those that employed him and all the taxpayers of this country.

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