August 1 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, June 5, 2014
A woman has pleaded guilty to a string of benefit frauds, lasting well over a decade, which netted her more than £140,000.
Janet Curtis, 64, from Clacton, who had previously pleaded guilty to nine offences, appeared before Ipswich Crown Court and was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence, suspended for two years and a six-month curfew to run between 7pm and 6am.
She will also have to repay all the money she obtained through her dishonesty.
Curtis, formerly of Martlesham Heath, had fraudulently claimed more than £140,000 in benefits from Suffolk Coastal District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions, saying that rheumatoid arthritis meant that she could not walk more than two-three metres without extreme discomfort, leaving her virtually wheelchair bound and unable to walk without aids.
She also claimed she was unable to function independently and needed 24-hour care, claiming additional benefit as she said she had a live-in carer and therefore needed an additional bedroom.
However, in reality, Curtis enjoyed a series of foreign holidays, cruising on the QEII – and even water-skiing in Florida.
The receipts she submitted for care services proved to be fakes after it was established that the person Curtis claimed was her carer had in fact never cared for her, and had not even seen her for several years.
She also continued to falsely claim Housing and Council Tax benefits for her home in Martlesham Heath for more than a decade after she had moved out to live with her partner in Clacton.
A joint investigation was launched between Suffolk Coastal’s Corporate Counter-Fraud Unit and Department for Work and Pensions investigators, which resulted in her homes being raided by Essex Police – and evidence seized, including film and photographs of her enjoying an active life and holidaying abroad.
Speaking after the case, Doreen Savage, Suffolk Coastal’s cabinet member with responsibility for housing, said: “This was one of the most prolonged and serious cases of fraud which our investigators have ever had to deal with. Curtis’s web of deceit stretched back to the 1990s and only stopped when she was caught.”
“She enjoyed lavish holidays abroad, while fraudulently claiming over £140,000 which should have been used to support people with genuine needs.”
“Suffolk Coastal has a zero tolerance policy towards benefit fraud. If you are honest when submitting claims, you have nothing to fear. But, if you are dishonest, you will be found out and prosecuted.”
Suffolk Coastal runs a 24-hour confidential Fraud Hotline for people to call to report suspected benefit fraudsters – call 01394 444444 - or email firstname.lastname@example.org