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Waltham Abbey benefit cheat spared jail
An out-of-work carpenter who fraudulently claimed over £27,000 in benefits has been spared jail.
Aubrey Crowder, 56, of Brambles Green Lane in Nazeing, pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Magistrates Court to two offences of dishonestly making false statements.
The statements were made to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and to Epping Forest District Council in 2010 relating to employment support allowance (ESA) and council tax benefit.
Magistrates imposed an 18-week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, ordered Crowder to complete 200 hours' unpaid work and pay £85 costs and a victim surcharge of £80.
The court heard that he claimed ESA from 29 July 2010 to 1 October 2012 and was overpaid £23,939.
Crowder, married for 25 years and with two children, was also overpaid £3,283 in council tax benefit.
All the money was voluntarily repaid in full in January this year.
The court heard the claims were fraudulent from the start and lasted over two years and Prosecutor Kathy Wilson said Crowder failed to disclose his and his wife's savings.
On the day he made his DWP claim for employment support allowance, his wife had withdrawn £27,000 from a bank account.
The prosecutor added that Mrs Crowder later received £50,000 and inherited a £280,000 property which was rented out at £1,300 per month.
Mrs Crowder told investigators she believed her husband knew she had withdrawn the money and it would affect his claim, said the prosecutor.
Mitigating, Elizabeth Middleton said Crowder had run his own carpentry and kitchen fitting business but became ill in 2010 and couldn't work.
His wife handled the family's finances, she added.
Crowder's wife's aunt lent her £27,000 to pay debts which the couple had which was paid into his wife's bank account but she didn't use it to pay off the debts, which he was aware of.
In November 2011 the aunt died and Crowder's wife inherited money and a property.
Explaining why the defendant hadn't declared the inheritance, the lawyer stated: "He said it was not his money and he had no control over it.
"He was worried about declaring it because he didn't want to get himself into trouble.
"He knew he should have declared it. It got to the point where he couldn't get himself out of it without getting into more trouble."
Miss Middleton said Mrs Crowder had bought a cafe where Crowder now worked full-time for his wife, who ran the business.
"It's her money, not his," she added.
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