Radlett benefit fraudster appears in court

A BENEFIT fraudster who claimed more than �6,000 he wasn’t entitled to has been tracked down and prosecuted.

Nicholas Otley, 33, claimed housing benefit in May 2009 on the basis that he was privately renting a home in Watling Street, Radlett, for �1,800 per month. He was not working and was the sole carer for his disabled wife and their four children.

But Watford Magistrates Court heard on Monday that in February last year Otley moved to Kingsway in Manchester and failed to notify Hertsmere Borough Council of the change which resulted in it continuing to pay the housing benefit – to the tune of �6,174.

The payments continued until a data-matching referral identified that a postal redirection had been taken out to get post to be sent to the address in Manchester and an investigation began.

Otley pleaded guilty to the offence under section 11A (1a) of the social security administration act 1992 for dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances. In defence he claimed to have sent a letter notifying Hertsmere Borough Council that he had changed address but accepted that he was aware that the benefit payments had continued until August 2010.

Cllr John Graham, portfolio holder for finance, said: “The council works with a number of different agencies to identify fraudulent benefit claims so just because you no longer live in our area it does not mean that we will not be able to find you and take action.”

After taking into account his early guilty plea, previous good character and limited financial resources the court fined Otley �165. He was also ordered to pay a contribution of �100 towards the council’s costs and a �15 victim surcharge. Hertsmere Borough Council will look to recover the overpayments through deductions from Otley’s benefits.