The £40,000 benefit scam

Benefits scam couple were sentenced at Swindon Crown Court

Benefits scam couple were sentenced at Swindon Crown Court

First published in News

A COUPLE who plundered nearly £40,000 in benefits by setting up a bogus claim have walked free from court.

Toni Smith, 35, got income support and housing benefit after saying she was a single woman, when in reality she was living with long-term partner Andrew Verlander, 42.

Verlander even wrote a letter claiming Smith, the mother of his child, was just a lodger so they could get their hands on £280 a month housing benefit.

But after hearing how the couple’s nine-year-old son has heart problems, a judge at Swindon Crown Court decided not to jail them.

Rosie Collins, prosecuting, said the couple had lived together in Portsmouth, claiming benefits as a couple, until July 2004, when they moved to Swindon.

In July 2004, Verlander sold their home in the city for £144,000 and bought a house in Newbury Drive, Freshbrook, for £132,000.

Within a few days Smith went to sign on to get income support saying she was a single woman renting a room from a family friend called Andy Steele.

To back up her application ‘landlord’ Verlander wrote a letter in the name of Steele saying it was a business relationship and he charged her £280 a month in rent.

In 2012 it was discovered that Verlander and Steele were the same person and an investigation was started. When Smith was questioned she initially lied but later accepted her partner had put her up to making the claim.

Verlander told investigators he used to be called Steele but had changed his name, and insisted they were not a couple and that he didn’t much like her.

As a result of the deception Smith received £23,915.52 in housing and council tax benefits and at least £13,763.05 in income support.

Smith pleaded guilty to two counts of making a false representation to obtain benefits and Verlander to producing a false document to obtain benefits.

Alex Daymond, for Smith, said she had been a heroin addict as a younger woman. After coming to Swindon they started the deception because they were short of money. In 2005, they had a son who has heart problems.

Mr Daymond said none of the money was spent on luxuries, just day to day living.

Rob Ross, for Verlander, said that following the recent death of his mother, he had received a large inheritance which meant he could repay all of the £37,678.57 they were not entitled to.

Passing sentence, Recorder Nick Rowland said: “There is a feeling in some quarters that these sort of offences are victimless, when it comes to benefit fraud.

“It is quite the opposite, the victims of behaviour like yours is the honest tax payer.”

He imposed eight month jail terms suspended for two years and told them to do 250 hours of unpaid work. He also ordered Verlander to pay £37,678 in the next 28 days or get a one year jail term and pay £1,000 costs.

Comments (8)

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7:34am Fri 18 Apr 14

LordAshOfTheBrake says...

More light sentencing from the criminal justice system.

How about levying a 10%, 20% increase to the amount to be returned. In essence the judgement means they can now view it as a very cheap loan for nearly 10 years.

They were claiming benefits whilst living in Portsmouth, but was able to sell their home there and buy one in Swindon. Sounds like a bit more investigation needs to be done!

Even if they had gone to jail, they would have had 8 month sentences, so would have served less than 4 months..... Where is the deterrent in that? The only reason they didn't go to jail was because their son has a heart problem.... Well at least one of them could have gone to jail, or perhaps they could have served their jail terms one after the other.....! Perhaps they should have thought about their son before committing benefit fraud!

I wonder if they even claimed legal aid, which if they did was probably more than the £1000 costs they have to pay.

Is it any wonder people play the system, the system is broken!
More light sentencing from the criminal justice system. How about levying a 10%, 20% increase to the amount to be returned. In essence the judgement means they can now view it as a very cheap loan for nearly 10 years. They were claiming benefits whilst living in Portsmouth, but was able to sell their home there and buy one in Swindon. Sounds like a bit more investigation needs to be done! Even if they had gone to jail, they would have had 8 month sentences, so would have served less than 4 months..... Where is the deterrent in that? The only reason they didn't go to jail was because their son has a heart problem.... Well at least one of them could have gone to jail, or perhaps they could have served their jail terms one after the other.....! Perhaps they should have thought about their son before committing benefit fraud! I wonder if they even claimed legal aid, which if they did was probably more than the £1000 costs they have to pay. Is it any wonder people play the system, the system is broken! LordAshOfTheBrake
  • Score: 12

10:07am Fri 18 Apr 14

Hmmmf says...

And in other news:
Adver wrote:
A MAN caught again selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer has walked free from court after a judge told him it may be harder than going to jail.

Recorder Nicholas Atkinson QC told dealer Justin Collier, who has 124 previous convictions: “In some ways it may be easier if you just go straight to prison today.”

Instead he put the 42-year-old on a suspended sentence and told him to do another drug rehabilitation requirement having received a similar order 18 months ago.

Judges, recorders and magistrates should be held accountable for every crime committed by the vermin they allow to walk free for no better reason than their own personal whims and fancies.
And in other news: [quote][p][bold]Adver[/bold] wrote: A MAN caught again selling crack cocaine to an undercover police officer has walked free from court after a judge told him it may be harder than going to jail. Recorder Nicholas Atkinson QC told dealer Justin Collier, who has 124 previous convictions: “In some ways it may be easier if you just go straight to prison today.” Instead he put the 42-year-old on a suspended sentence and told him to do another drug rehabilitation requirement having received a similar order 18 months ago. [/quote] Judges, recorders and magistrates should be held accountable for every crime committed by the vermin they allow to walk free for no better reason than their own personal whims and fancies. Hmmmf
  • Score: 15

10:52am Fri 18 Apr 14

Badgersgetabadname says...

Crack dealers walk free, man drunkenly crashes car into house and MP`s showing us all that the bigger the numbers the more likely you are to get away with fraud.
No real punishment, no surprise.
Crack dealers walk free, man drunkenly crashes car into house and MP`s showing us all that the bigger the numbers the more likely you are to get away with fraud. No real punishment, no surprise. Badgersgetabadname
  • Score: 8

11:57am Fri 18 Apr 14

King Doink says...

Are we missing the point here? He is going to pay back all the money he owes especially now he has got that inheritance!! His poor mum must be turning in her grave. Most of the other criminals or Druggies pay back virtually nowt!! It's a start I suppose.
Are we missing the point here? He is going to pay back all the money he owes especially now he has got that inheritance!! His poor mum must be turning in her grave. Most of the other criminals or Druggies pay back virtually nowt!! It's a start I suppose. King Doink
  • Score: 2

10:19am Sat 19 Apr 14

nigelej says...

madreeves wrote:
On a par with "vulnerable" the phrase "walked free from court" must be the most used phrase in the press now.
True but at least they went to court for fiddling and paying all back what happened to that mp she paid back £5000 instead of £40,000 and not even inveastigated by the police .if we want things right in this country then we have to start at the top after all I was brought up to lead by example
[quote][p][bold]madreeves[/bold] wrote: On a par with "vulnerable" the phrase "walked free from court" must be the most used phrase in the press now.[/p][/quote]True but at least they went to court for fiddling and paying all back what happened to that mp she paid back £5000 instead of £40,000 and not even inveastigated by the police .if we want things right in this country then we have to start at the top after all I was brought up to lead by example nigelej
  • Score: -2

11:54am Sat 19 Apr 14

trolley dolley says...

NO nigelej we should not start at the top.

All people are equal under the law and therefore should be treated the same.

They should ALL go to court and if found guilty they should be treated the same.
NO nigelej we should not start at the top. All people are equal under the law and therefore should be treated the same. They should ALL go to court and if found guilty they should be treated the same. trolley dolley
  • Score: 7

2:16pm Sat 19 Apr 14

Badgersgetabadname says...

trolley dolley wrote:
NO nigelej we should not start at the top.

All people are equal under the law and therefore should be treated the same.

They should ALL go to court and if found guilty they should be treated the same.
Some animals are more equal than others?

Legal aid is no longer available to all so if you are an MP making £125k + per year + expenses you are in a better position to go to court than someone who has cheated JSA or the like who cannot afford representation or cannot do it for themselves.
So yes all should be treated the same but from the start those at the top are protected. Cameron has said he would like to see Mary Miller back in gov??? She lied over many years and knowingly stole, she should of been arrested then had a day in court where she would of got a slap on the wrist. First offense fair enough?
[quote][p][bold]trolley dolley[/bold] wrote: NO nigelej we should not start at the top. All people are equal under the law and therefore should be treated the same. They should ALL go to court and if found guilty they should be treated the same.[/p][/quote]Some animals are more equal than others? Legal aid is no longer available to all so if you are an MP making £125k + per year + expenses you are in a better position to go to court than someone who has cheated JSA or the like who cannot afford representation or cannot do it for themselves. So yes all should be treated the same but from the start those at the top are protected. Cameron has said he would like to see Mary Miller back in gov??? She lied over many years and knowingly stole, she should of been arrested then had a day in court where she would of got a slap on the wrist. First offense fair enough? Badgersgetabadname
  • Score: -2

10:31am Sun 20 Apr 14

Melgee says...

Pay back £37,000 or a jail sentence of 12 months.... out in 7 months?

Not a bad return eh!

Crime does pay then!
Pay back £37,000 or a jail sentence of 12 months.... out in 7 months? Not a bad return eh! Crime does pay then! Melgee
  • Score: 1

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