Wife admits £34,000 benefit fraud

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A WOMAN who dishonestly claimed more than £34,000 in benefits has been given a 12-month community order.

Ann Marie Kerr, of Sheringham Close, Blakeney Woods, Sunderland fraudulently-claimed Income Support and Housing and Council Tax Benefit between September 2006 and January 2010.

The 47-year-old claimed the benefits as a single parent but failed to declare that she had married Ian Kerr.

The crime was uncovered by a joint investigation by Sunderland City Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

She pleaded guilty to two charges of dishonestly failing to promptly report a chance of circumstance in order to obtain benefit at Newcastle Crown Court.

Mr Kerr, 51, a fireman, also pleaded guilty to one offence of failing to promptly report a change of circumstance.

He was declared as being the landlord in respect of her Housing Benefit and received payments in respect of Mrs Kerr.

However he failed to declare that he had married Mrs Kerr in September 2006 and continued to receive the Housing Benefit payments.

They must now repay the money.

His Honour Judge Guy Whitburn took account of the financial impact on them of their monthly repayments of £200 towards the overpaid total.

He also noted that a custodial sentence would impact upon their child.

Mrs Kerr was given a 12-month community order with 100 hours of unpaid work. Mr Kerr received a conditional discharge for six months.

Malcolm Page, executive director of commercial and corporate services for Sunderland City Council, said: “Claiming benefits not due to you is a crime and takes money away from the delivery of essential public services.

“We have a dedicated team who track down, investigate and prosecute benefit fraud.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho