Credit fraud

Rossendale benefits fraud avoids jail for £10,000 Universal Credit fraud

A man who committed £10,643.02 benefit fraud has avoided jail time.

Shaun Walton, 35, falsely requested prepayments on Universal Credit by knowingly filling out online forms incorrectly.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Walton, who at the time had no children, was single, paid no rent and had no job, first applied for Universal Credit in January 2019.

Prosecutor Claire Brocklebank told the court that applications for Universal Credit usually take five weeks to process and therefore to receive payments faster, applicants can apply for an advance payment.

She said: “In January 2019, an online claim form was completed on behalf of the defendant stating that he was single, unemployed and childless.

“Moments later, £640 housing costs were claimed and four children were added to the claim form.

“A deposit was requested and £541 was paid to him. No further payment was made and the claim was closed.

“Two months later a further claim of £750 was made for housing costs and five children were subsequently added to the claim, with an advance payment of £1,525.44 made.

“This claim was subsequently closed in April.”

Ms Brocklebank said other similar claims had been made to the Department for Work and Pensions, with one claim seeking money for a fourth child registered as blind. This provided Walton with an advance payment of £1,144.08.

The court heard how later, in October, a joint claim was filed, this time with Walton adding a woman called Sophie Johnson to the form and three children, claiming £700 in housing costs and receiving a payment of £1,144, £08.

Ms Brocklebank continued: ‘This complaint was closed in November when the defendant said he was moving to Spain.’

Another 18 advance payment requests have been filed with the DWP through October 2021, some of which have been denied.

At the time, Walton, who has no prior convictions, was also receiving monthly Universal Credit payments.

In total he defrauded the DWP out of £10,643.02.

When questioned, Walton, 35, said he was aware of the allegations and said it was his friend who made changes to the forms but later fully admitted to the offences.

Offering mitigation, Umar Shazad said his client was extremely remorseful and struggled with the death of his grandfather at the time, and slipped into alcohol and drug addiction.

He said: “He has set up a payment plan with the DWP on his own initiative and has already repaid over £1,000 and intends to continue repaying.”

Walton, of Coronation Grove, Newchurch, Rossendale, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of withholding wrongful credit and was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for two years.

He was also sentenced to perform 15 days of rehabilitation activities and 150 hours of unpaid work.