A 41-year-old Serbian man has been jailed for 26 weeks for making false benefit claims worth almost £40,000 following an investigation led by Eastbourne Borough Council.
Gordan Tanovic, now of The High Street, Seaford, was sentenced for three counts of dishonestly obtaining benefits from Eastbourne Borough Council, Brighton and Hove City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Brighton Magistrates Court heard how Tanovic, who has lived in the UK for 15 years and had hoped to become a professional basketball player, had been “fraudulent from the outset” after his initial income support claim in July 2007 from the DWP.
He also claimed Housing Benefit from Brighton & Hove City Council for the period April 5, 2008 to the June 6, 2010, and then when he moved to the Eastbourne area he claimed Housing and Council Tax Benefit from Eastbourne Borough Council for the period June 6, 2010, to September 4, 2011.
Cllr Margaret Bannister said, “Eastbourne Borough Council is aware of the financial difficulties that many residents are experiencing in the present economic climate but this type of fraud will not be tolerated and should not be seen as a way out of financial difficulty. The Council will continue to pursue fraudulent claims because these claims affect everyone within the borough. If someone is caught making a fraudulent claim we will seek to prosecute.”
On sentencing, Recorder Anthony Chinn QS decided not to recommend that Tanovic should be deported despite a call by the prosecution. He said that although Tanovic had used a false visa to enter the UK, he had not used false identity to apply for benefits and therefore had not passed the threshold at which a recommendation for deportation could be made.
His immigration status will be considered during his time in prison.