'Disney photo' snares benefit cheats
Published 19/02/2010 | 10:12
A couple who claimed they were landlord and tenant were caught out as benefit cheats by pictures of them posing happily together with Disney characters.
Fraud investigators seized images of Marina Beddows, 54, and Colin Godbold, 57, alongside Mickey Mouse and Pluto following a raid on their home.
The pictures were used to undermine their claim that they were landlord and tenant and were in fact in a relationship, a Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokesman said.
The couple, of Lister Road in Margate, Kent, pleaded guilty to benefit fraud totalling £70,551 between 2002 and 2007 after being found to be living together.
At Canterbury Crown Court last Thursday, Beddows was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison, suspended for 18 months, and a 12-week curfew order between 8pm and 7am.
Meanwhile, Godbold received a 20-week prison term, suspended for 18 months, and a 12-week curfew order between 8pm and 7am, the DWP said.
The overpayments included £17,551 in income support, £46,000 in housing benefit and £7,000 in council tax benefit, which fraud investigators said could have been spent on vital community services.
Steve Tamsett, senior fraud manager for Kent, said: "We are taking a tough line on benefit thieves because last year they stole around £0.9 billion - money that could be spent on other vital services such as schools and hospitals.
"Benefit thieves have to understand that they will not get away with it.
"Working together with local authorities and the police, we have a strong range of powers to investigate and, with the support of the public, we bring benefit thieves to justice."