Richmond woman prosecuted for council tax fraud

Northallerton Magistrates' Court before its closure.

A Richmond woman has been prosecuted for council tax fraud.

Richmondshire District Council’s fraud team took action against Elaine Smith, 63, of Stuart Avenue, Richmond, after she claimed single person discount at her property for six years, in her daughter’s name.

This cost the taxpayer more than £2,000, officials say.

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This was the first case of its kind to be discovered through a data matching exercise conducted by the council’s fraud provider, Veritau Ltd.

The exercise compared records from multiple sources and revealed that a second individual was linked to a property which had been declared as being occupied by a sole adult.

An investigation into the discount showed it was in her daughter’s name, but Mrs Smith was paying the council tax bill.

During the course of the investigation, officers carried out a visit to the property where Ms Smith admitted to have been living there for around five years, while still claiming single person discount in her daughter’s name and purporting to be living in another area of the country.

Ms Smith was interviewed under caution and admitted to the offence of fraud, stating that she forged her daughter’s signature on the form and fraudulently claimed that her daughter lived there alone – in order to receive the 25 per cent discount.

As a result of her fraud Ms Smith received a discount of £2,177.99 on her council tax bill that she was not entitled to.

The investigation concluded with Ms Smith pleading guilty to all charges at Northallerton Magistrates’ Court on Monday July 30.

She was ordered to pay a fine of £272.

Besides repayment arrangements, she was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £30 and court costs of £395, totalling £697.

Councillor Geoffrey Linehan, chair of the council’s audit, governance and standards committee, said: “Fraud against Richmondshire District Council deprives council services, which support our entire community, of much needed funding.

“We are now employing new and innovative techniques to identify where fraud is occurring and we won’t hesitate to take strong action where appropriate.

“We encourage anyone with any information on fraudulent activity to phone the fraud hotline on 0800 9179 247 or email counter.fraud@york.gov.uk.”