Belfast property firm co-owner claimed housing benefit
A 46-year old Belfast man claimed Housing Benefit whilst he was part-owner of a property company, a court heard.
Paul Magee, from Larkspur Rise in the west of the city, was handed a nine-month sentence which was suspended for two years after appearing in court on four charges of defrauding the state.
Belfast Crown Court heard the overpayment made to Magee amounted to £29,672 and that this offending spanned over a period from November 2004 to December 2012.
Prosecuting barrister David McClean said that the four charges that Magee pleaded guilty to were in relation to Income Support and Housing Benefit. On three occasions Magee failed to declare a change in circumstances, while he also admitted a charge of making a false declaration with a view to obtaining benefits.
Mr McClean said Magee's offending emerged following a Social Security Agency investigation into his financial affairs. The investigation revealed that from 1999, Magee was part owner of a house in west Belfast.
During the course of the investigation, it was also discovered that he had a quarter share in a property company which had a portfolio of ten properties both here and in England, and that the properties ranged in price from £88,000 to £97,000.
When he was interviewed by the Social Security Agency, Magee admitted being part of the partnership along with three friends. Mr McClean said Magee also made "full admissions with respect to the offences."
The prosecutor told the court that whilst Magee's benefit claims were initially legitimate, he then purchased properties without notifying the authorities.
The court also heard there was "no evidence" that Magee led an extravagant lifestyle, and that he has already made voluntary repayments from his current benefits - namely DLA and Employment Support Allowance - amounting to £1,210.
Defence barrister Paul Bacon said that while he accepted the amount of money involved in the overpayments and the length of time Magee offended, he pointed out that Magee pleaded guilty and "didn't seek to protract the matter."
Saying that Magee didn't display any trapping of extravagant lifestyle "in any way, shape or form", Mr Bacon said his client was "a man not without his difficulties" which included mental health issues.
Handing Magee a nine-month sentence which was suspended for two years, Judge Kerr told Magee "for at least seven years you defrauded the state."