Suspended jail term given to OAP fraudster

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A 68-YEAR-OLD man has been sentenced for fraudulently claiming £55,000 in benefits following a joint investigation involving Eastbourne Borough Council.

Peter Clinch, formerly of Benbow Close, Eastbourne, was sentenced at Weymouth Magistrates on June 17 to 40 weeks in prison (suspended for 12 months) for his part in the fraud.

Clinch was receiving housing and council tax benefit, income support and pensions credit which he had falsely claimed.

In a joint operation between the Department for Work and Pensions organised fraud team, Dorset District Council, Eastbourne Borough Council and officials in France, Clinch was found to have failed to inform the authorities that he had a property in France and for large periods of time he was living at this property whilst continuing to claim his benefits.

Clinch obtained £32,179.79 in benefits from Eastbourne Borough Council between December 23 2002 and April 27 2008, money he was not entitled to and which he will have to pay back in full.

Clinch pleaded guilty to making false claims and failing to notify Eastbourne Borough Council, Dorset District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions about his true circumstances and further changes that had occurred whilst he was claiming benefits that affected his right to benefit.

He was sentenced to 40 weeks in prison, suspended for 12 months due to ill health. He also received an 80 hour community service order and a six month curfew.

Clinch will have to reappear at Weymouth Magistrates Court on the October 17 as he is subject of a confiscation order under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002.

Councillor Margaret Bannister, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Revenues and Benefits, said, “This type of fraud will not be tolerated and should not be seen as a way out of financial difficulty.

“We ask anyone who is claiming benefits to contact the benefits office with any changes that may affect their benefit as soon as the change happens.”

If you suspect that someone is claiming benefits that they should not be entitled to, call the benefit fraud hotline on 0800 7317039. Further information about benefit fraud can be found at www.eastbourne.gov.uk/benefit-fraud