Barnsley benefit fraudster fiddle £18,000

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A benefit fraudster who failed to tell the authorities he had inherited more than £30,000 has escaped an immediate prison term.

David Harrison, aged 45, inherited £33,236 after the death of his father but failed to tell the Department for Work and Pensions and continued to claim income support, council tax and housing benefit.

Kevin Jones, prosecuting at Sheffield Crown Court, said Harrison began to claim benefits after his partner died and he had to bring up two young children alone.

He made his first claim in 1993 and continued to claim until 2009.

By July 2009, £33,236 had been paid into his bank account which were payments from his late father’s estate.

“Had he declared that he would not have been entitled to benefits for 141 weeks – or two years nine months,” Mr Jones added.

Mr Jones said he had been paid £18,623.98 to which he was not entitled.

Rebecca Stevens, defending Harrison, of Rowland Road, Barnsley, said he had paid £5,000 back to the DWP.

She said: “There certainly haven’t been any luxury holidays or any high living.”

She said it was a ‘particularly tragic case’ because Mr Harrison’s wife had died when their sons were one and five and he was left to bring them up on his own.

“He struggled to deal with the death of his partner and when his dad died, all his emotions came flooding back and he didn’t deal very well with either,” she said.

Miss Stevens said Harrison was not thinking straight when he received the inheritance.

He was planning to sell his father’s house to pay back the DWP and had been working seven days a week to make ends meet.

Judge Alan Goldsack QC sentenced him to 16 weeks in prison, suspended for a year and 80 hours of unpaid work for the community.