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Facebook pictures betray benefit cheat who jetted off to Lanzarote, Cyprus and Spain

A benefits fraudster spent tax payers money on lavish holidays abroad while sitting on almost £400,000 in three bank accounts.

Teresa Hardy, 48, of Sunnyside Estate, Ibstock, appeared in Leicester Magistrates’ Court on Thursday 7 June, to plead guilty to dishonestly claiming council tax reduction and fraudulently receiving further discretionary payments.

Hardy started claiming Council Tax support from North West Leicestershire District Council (NWLDC) in April 2013 on the basis of having no other income other than the employment and support allowance she received.

Over the five year period Hardy received £3931.23 in council tax reduction benefit.

Hardy went on to claim additional discretionary ‘hardship’ payments of £557 and £218 in 2014 and 2015 respectively due to her income being so much lower than her outgoings.

NWLDC officers became suspicious in August 2017 and launched an investigation into Hardy’s claims, which had now led to payments over a four year period. They discovered three bank accounts showing a total balance of £374,833 and took to social media to find further evidence.

There they found evidence on Facebook of the defendant enjoying holidays in Belgium, Lanzarote, Cyprus, Tunisia, France and Spain during the overpayment period. The search also revealed Hardy as being the owner of a business called Doodle Mania and a website advertising her as an artist.

‘Exceptional circumstances’ regarding Hardy’s health saw magistrates’ hand her a three-year conditional discharge. A collection order was made which will see Hardy pay the council’s costs of £1,812, while the overpayments are also to be paid back.

Councillor Nick Rushton, Corporate Portfolio Holder at NWLDC, said: “I hope this sends a message to anyone considering making a fraudulent claim that they won’t get away with it and will be taken to court.

“This case is particular galling in that the defendant was spending the money of hardworking taxpayers on extravagant holidays abroad. Thanks to the excellent work of our legal and revenue and benefits teams this money will now be reclaimed and reinvested into the council services we offer.”

Published: Fri 15 June, 2018

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