A Horndean couple who defrauded East Hampshire District Council of nearly £35,000 has been told to repay the money or face jail. Michael and Erica Denyer, of Juniper Road, claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit to which they were not entitled over a four year period. The couple told the council they were on a low income but failed to declare several jobs held by Michael Denyer who, at one stage, was earning over £46,000 a year.
Each defendant pleaded guilty to a count of Council Tax Benefit fraud and Housing Benefit fraud as well as two counts each of failing to notify the council about their true income. They have been given a repayment plan which will see them pay back the full amount of money owed.
Considering the case on Tuesday 6 May, His Honour Judge Hetherington deferred passing sentence until November. He told the court that if the defendants proved they could stick to the agreed repayment plan over the next six months he would give them a suspended sentence – but if they did not they could expect ‘an immediate custodial sentence’. The Denyers claimed both Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit from August 17 2009 to September 8 2013. They claimed they were living off Erica Denyer’s wage alone despite Michael Denyer being in constant employment during that time.
Sara Bryan, Senior Contentious Lawyer, at East Hampshire District Council, said: “The council takes cases to court as a last resort but takes the matter of benefit fraud extremely seriously. “This fraud went on for a period of four years, and led to a huge overpayment of money that the couple were not entitled to. This is public money and we as a local authority are duty bound to takes steps to recover that money wherever possible.