ESSEX: Mother-of-three given 11-week suspended jail sentence for benefit fraud
A SUCCESSFUL prosecution by Uttlesford District Council (UDC) has led to a woman who fraudulently claimed more than �34,000 in benefits receiving a suspended sentence.
Elizabeth McLintock, of Little Hallingbury, was given an 11-week prison sentence suspended for 12 months when she appeared at Harlow Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (June 16).
The 47-year-old mother-of-three was also ordered to pay more than �3800 of the council’s legal costs.
On top of the suspended sentence and financial penalty, McLintock was also ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work in the community over the next 12 months.
McLintock legitimately began claiming housing benefit in 2002 when she moved into the Little Hallingbury property after it was bought by her father.
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In 2004 she and her father applied for a joint mortgage on the home, to enable the father to raise some money for his son. In order to qualify for a joint mortgage, McLintock was required to become joint owner of the property, which she did.
McLintock failed to notify the council that she had become joint owner of a property. Becoming a joint owner automatically disqualified her from being eligible to receive housing benefits.
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This meant that between July 19 2004 and April 26 2009, the �34,157 she received was claimed illegally.
McLintock denied the offence twice while being interviewed under caution, and maintained her innocence at five separate hearings held at the Harlow court.
It was only at the sixth hearing, held on Wednesday, that she admitted her guilt and was sentenced.
The court requested a fast-track probation report due to the seriousness of the offence.
Issuing the sentence, the chair of the magistrates’ bench said: “This is a serious offence for which [McLintock] must be punished. The offence involved a large sum of money, sophisticated planning and acting with others. It was committed over a long period of time. Had it not been for the guilty plea, the sentence would be for 13 weeks instead of 11.”
If McLintock fails to carry out the community work as instructed or offends again in the next year, she will go to prison.
Chairman of the district council’s finance and administration committee, Cllr Robert Chambers, said: “Benefit fraud is a serious crime and this successful case shows how the council will pursue and prosecute anyone found to be claiming benefits illegally.
“The system which Elizabeth McLintock tried to take advantage of is designed to provide help to the people who need it most – it is not a source of free money for everyone else.
“Uttlesford District Council will vigorously pursue anybody who is claiming benefits illegally and thereby effectively stealing from the thousands of people in the district who are genuinely entitled to financial help. The council will now be taking steps to recover the overpayment from Mrs McLintock.”