Fraud committed to fund drug habit

A WOMAN has been sentenced for cheating Harborough Council out of £3,000 of benefits.

Charlotte Ulph (26) of Coales Gardens, Harborough appeared before Leicester Magistrates’ Court on December 6 for sentencing.

Ulph sought support from the council’s housing benefits department in April 2008 because she was unable to work due to illness.

She was awarded Housing and Council Tax benefit which were intended to enable Ulph could keep up with rent and Council Tax payments while off work.

In May 2010, Ulph wrote to the council saying she would be stopping her Incapacity Benefit claims from June 2010 and as a consequence would like her Housing and Council Tax benefit claims to stop.

She later emailed stating she would actually be starting work the following Monday and would like to be considered for an extra four weeks of Housing and Council Tax Benefit payments.

These extra weeks can be paid in certain circumstances when people return to full-time work after long periods of unemployment.

As a result, Ulph’s claims were terminated and the four-week extra payment made. These claims were then investigated by the council’s Fraud Team which found Ulph had actually started work in January 2010 – five months before the date she gave.

In addition, from January to June 2010, Ulph kept in contact with the benefits department in order to ensure her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit payments continued.

She was asked to attend an interview under caution with the council’s investigation officer but she ignored the requests and so was summonsed to appear before the courts in October this year but failed to attend.

A warrant was issued and Ulph was arrested on November 13.

The next day she appeared before the court and admitted three charges of fraud, one count of fraud by failing to notify a change in her circumstances and two counts of fraud by false representation.

Ulph appeared in court again on December 6 where the court heard she had committed the fraud as she was short of money and funding a drug habit but that she had known she had been claiming benefits to which she was not entitled.

The court also heard Ulph was now in full-time employment and was making repayments to the council.

Magistrates sentenced her to a nine-month supervision order and six-month drug rehabilitation programme.

She was ordered to pay the prosecution costs of £534 in addition to repaying the overpaid benefit.

Speaking after the case, the council’s fraud team leader Claire Webber said: “Miss Ulph committed a dishonest and deliberate fraud against the council in order to fund a drug habit. Her actions were all the more cynical because of her specific request for the four-week extra payment – which is intended to help people to make ends meet for that first few weeks back at work.”

Harborough Council says it has a zero tolerance approach to fraud and will always seek full recovery of overpaid benefits in addition to taking further action against offenders.

If you suspect someone of benefit fraud, phone the council fraud team confidentially on 01455 255683.