English Benefits Cheat Built Property Portfolio in Cambridge, BulgariaCrime | January 9, 2014, Thursday // 19:17| views
A fraudster from a village in Cambridgeshire, England, walked free from court despite not telling the authorities she was building a property portfolio with her partner while claiming benefits, local media reported.
Zoe Shipp, from Cottenham, bought a 30,000 euro property in Bulgaria and her other half inherited a house in Cambridge worth GBP 200,000 in 2009, which they were renting out for GBP 1,200 a month, when she was getting taxpayers’ money - including housing benefit, Cambridge News reported.
The 46-year-old did not tell South Cambridgeshire District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions about their burgeoning property empire, as well as other changes of circumstances including a large cash deposit, meaning she was overpaid GBP 30,000 in income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit.
Shipp, of Orchard Close, was sentenced to six months in prison suspended for two years and told to pay GBP 3,000 in costs to the council after she admitted 12 counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances on the first day of her trial in November.
Jane Oldfield, prosecuting, listed the changes in circumstances during the fraud, which took place between 2006 and 2010.
As well as the property, a deposit of more than GBP 25,000 was made into one of their accounts in October 2008.
Judge Mark Lucraft QC, sentencing, said he could suspend the sentence because of her role as the carer of her partner Christopher Glover and that she accepted responsibility and “did not seek to minimize” her role.
While she was being investigated she was found to have a bank balance of GBP 14,000, a Mercedes valued at GBP 4,500 and jewellery and horse tack worth up to GBP 30,000.
The court heard she was of previous good character and had already paid back the GBP 30,082.88 in full.
As the carer of her partner, who has mental health problems including anxiety and a fear of people he does not know, she was claiming benefits on his behalf.
The case against Glover, who was originally charged with similar offenses, was dropped because of his medical condition.
Cllr Simon Edwards, the district council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for finance, said Shipp was “quite rightly facing the consequences” for claiming benefits she “wasn’t entitled to and did not need”.
He added: “I would like to thank the police for their assistance in helping us bring her to book and I hope this sends a clear message to others that fraudsters will be caught and punished.
“This is not a victimless crime as fraudulently claimed benefits takes money out of the pockets of every hard working taxpayer as well as the people who genuinely need support to make ends meet.”
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