Jail for Tangmere woman who claimed £33,000 in benefits

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A woman who was living in Tangmere has received an eight-month prison sentence and been ordered to complete 160 hours of community work after she falsely claimed more than £33,000 in benefit.

Maria Eastaugh, 35, who previously lived in Mannock Road, Tangmere made the claims for Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support on the basis that she was a single parent.

The fraud was uncovered during an investigation by Chichester District Council which found that during the time when Eastaugh was receiving these benefits, she had a partner living with her whom she had in fact married.

During the investigation it was also found that she had made fraudulent claims while living in the Arun District Council area before she moved to Tangmere.

The overpayments were made up of:

Housing Benefit (Chichester District Council): £13,799.97; Council Tax Benefit (Chichester District Council): £2,414.31;

Housing Benefit (Arun District Council): £6,753.26; Council Tax Benefit (Arun District Council): £1,651.77; and Income Support £8,654.60.

Eastaugh appeared before Chichester Crown Court on June 17 and pleaded guilty to four charges of dishonesty. This was on the basis that she failed to declare her partner in the household and that she made false statements.

Her eight-month prison sentence was suspended for 16 months.

Chichester and Arun district councils and the Department for Work and Pensions will recover the overpaid benefit directly from Eastaugh.

Councillor Philippa Hardwick, Cabinet Member for Finance at Chichester District Council, said: “We want to ensure that benefits go to the people who need them. A significant amount of benefit was dishonestly gained in this case and we are committed to rooting out fraudulent claims. Where we find that people are abusing the system, we will always take action to ensure that people are appropriately punished and that any benefits dishonestly gained are recovered.”

Any residents across Chichester District who suspect someone of committing benefit fraud can contact the council’s investigation team on the confidential, 24-hour fraud hotline number 01243 534590.

They can also log a report online at www.chichester.gov.uk

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