Benefits cheat claimed £17,000 after keeping £40,000 inheritance quiet

Sunderland Magistrates' Court.
Sunderland Magistrates' Court.
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A benefit cheat continued to claim as he kept quiet about a £40,000 inheritance from his grandmother.

Shaun Wood, 47, failed to declare the windfall as he signed forms to confirm he had no change in circumstances between December 2006 and November 2011, Sunderland magistrates heard.

Instead he spent all the money elsewhere and bought his son a car.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson said in total Wood had received an overpayment of £17,000 in housing benefit and council tax benefit, he was not entitled to.

Mr Anderson said Wood had told investigators that he kept the cash quiet because he did not want to risk the money and stated on the claims that he had no savings at all.

He pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to notify Sunderland City Council of a change of circumstances that he knew would affect his entitlement to benefits, by not declaring an increase in his capital.

Probation officer Paul Grace, who prepared a report into Wood’s circumstances, said: “He is somebody who, whilst he accepts it’s his full responsibility, has somebody who assists in filling his forms out, because he struggles with his reading and his writing.

“He has very limited insight into the offence and therefore takes very limited responsibility.

“I don’t think he grasps the significance and the seriousness of the offence.”

Mr Grace added that Wood has £5,000 in arrears to Gentoo and faces eviction from his home in Burnside Avenue, Houghton.

James Palmer, defending, said: “What is clear to me is that this defendant simply did not have an adequate level of understanding.

“This relates to a sum of £40,000. That money is not present or available anymore.

“He is now legitimately claiming Employment and Support Allowance and Personal Independence Payment.

“There’s been an investigation into his savings and there is no money left.”

Wood was given a 12-month community order and a four-month electronically tagged curfew between 7pm and 7am , seven days a week.

He was also told to pay £85 costs and £60 victim surcharge.