Benefit cheat ordered to pay back £35k or face jail

Published on: Friday, 07-August-2015

A judge has ordered a benefit cheat to pay back £35,000 to Knowsley Council in the next six months or face jail.

Gareth Hey and his partner Maureen Heard pleaded guilty to offences associated with false Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit claims over a period of five years.

52 year old Hey had claimed to be the landlord of a property in Briar Drive in Huyton, where Heard, 50, lived.

However, an investigation by Knowsley Council found the pair were actually living together at the address with their child throughout the five year period.

At a confiscation hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the judge at Liverpool Crown Court agreed that Hey had benefitted from his criminal conduct and awarded a Confiscation Order of £34,370.

Hey has been given six months to repay the full amount to Knowsley Council or face 12 months in jail and still be required to repay the money.

At an earlier hearing, the pair were both handed a four month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months and a 16 week curfew between 8pm and 6am.

A spokesperson for Knowsley Council said: “This is an excellent result for Knowsley Council and also sends out the clear message that we will actively pursue anybody who falsely claims benefits they are not entitled to in order for us to recover the money.

“We rely on our communities to tell us when they suspect someone is committing benefit fraud and we will always investigate those claims.

“If a person who claims benefits has a change in their circumstances which affects those benefits, they should tell the council as soon as possible. Anyone who suspects somebody is committing benefit fraud in Knowsley should inform the council anonymously on 0800 073 0532.”