When news happens, text SDE and your photos or videos to 80360. Or contact us by email and phone.
Couple used forged rent book in rip-off
4:00am Tuesday 2nd October 2012 in News
A Southampton couple have been jailed after using a forged rent book to help them rip off benefit agencies out of thousands of pounds, the city crown court heard.
The book showed that Peter Gregory was Heather Chainey’s landlord – in reality they were living together, prosecutor Jodie Mittell said.
Chainey said that her claims as a single parent were initially legitimate but later they moved in together, which she failed to disclose and as a consequence received an overpayment of more than £64,000.
They were rumbled after a tip-off to the city council, who mounted a surveillance operation, and Gregory was seen regularly leaving the house in a Transit pick-up.
Chainey, 38, of Palm Road, Southampton, admitted five charges of furnishing false information, two of failing to notify a change of circumstances and one of adapting a rent book in connection with fraud and was jailed for 36 weeks.
Judge Susan Evans QC told her: “You had plenty of opportunities to put things right but you continued to maintain you were living as a single parent. “I have no doubt you were influenced by Gregory in your offending but you signed the forms and now you must answer for it.”
Gregory, 57, also of Palm Road, admitted the joint rent book charge and was jailed for 23 weeks.
Ms Mittell said that Gregory was repaying council tax benefit at the rate of up to £300 a month from his earnings but there had been no repayments over the fraudulent claims for jobseekers allowance and income support.
Gregory, who was unrepresented, told the court: “What I did was very stupid. I feel ashamed.
“I assure you I want to lead a decent life from now on.”
For Chainey, Anthony Heaton-Armstrong said she accepted that she had been thoroughly dishonest, but she was ashamed.
The couple lived together but Gregory’s work would take him away, which depleted their resources and caused Chainey severe financial difficulties.
None of the cash, he added, went on high living, their only holiday being a budget one.
He said: “Both want to pay the money back. He accepts moral responsibility, she criminal responsibility.”