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Finance and money

Bridal benefits cheats swindled taxpayers out of £120,000

A HUSBAND and wife benefit cheat team who swindled taxpayers out of more than £120,000 have been convicted following a two-year town hall probe.

Diane Ashley, of Surridge Court, Stockwell, failed to declare that she was married to her landlord, Rudolph Pink, or that she co-owned a string of properties when she began claiming housing benefit from Lambeth council in 2008.

Town hall investigators launched an probe into Mrs Ashley’s benefits claims in January 2010 following allegations she had failed to declare income from other properties she owned.

Lambeth council began to suspect that Mrs Ashley had a relationship with Rudolph Pink – the man she claimed was her landlord at Surridge Court.

It was discovered that Mrs Ashley owned a property at Carholme Road, Catford, and jointly owned a house in Margate with Mr Pink.

But she had failed to declare that when claiming housing benefit.

In November 2010 police officers searched her Catford property and Mr Pink and Mrs Ashley were arrested.

Officers found a marriage certificate confirming that Mr Pink and Mrs Ashley were husband and wife, not landlord and tenant and therefore neither had “rental liability”.

Mrs Ashley fraudulently claimed £56,939 in housing benefit and jobseekers allowance payments from Lambeth council, Thanet District council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

Her husband, Mr Pink, cheated £67,248 in benefits from Lewisham council for the Carholme Road property.

On April 10 the husband and wife crooks were sentenced at the Inner London Crown Court and pleading guilty in March.

Mrs Ashley was handed a 52 week sentence, suspended for 12 months, owing to a “very serious medical issues” she had recently suffered.

Mr Pink was jailed for 10 months.

His Honour Judge Roger Chapple said: “The tax paying public would find it particularly unpalatable that you have been provided money and were acquiring property.”

A Lambeth council spokesman said: “People who claim benefits they are not entitled to are stealing from the public purse and we will pursue those who do so relentlessly through the courts.

“Our anti-fraud team is saving council tax payers hundreds of the thousands of pounds a year by rooting out and cracking down on the cheats, vital funds that can instead be used to protect key services.”

If you have any information about someone you suspect to be committing benefit fraud you can call Lambeth Council’s anti-fraud hotline on 020 7926 1111.

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