Benefit cheats denied marriage to claim £45,000 in housing benefit from Redbridge Council

A couple who denied being married to claim over £45,000 in housing benefit have been given suspended prison sentences.

Benefit cheats Denise Laws, 54, and Denis Archer, 58, pleaded guilty to one count of failing to notify a change in circumstances to social security and nine counts of furnishing false information on accounts at Snaresbrook Crown Court.

A Redbridge Council spokesman said the couple ran the scam for 10 years between 1999 and 2009 at a house in Ilford.

Laws claimed housing benefit as a single parent and declared Archer as her landlord when they were in fact husband and wife.

The arrangements allowed her to hand thousands of pounds from the council to her husband.

Both initially denied being married to each other and claimed their identities had been stolen but changed their pleas to guilty before their trial started.

Housing benefit, which is being replaced by the new Universal Credit, aims to help people on a low income to pay rent.

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Only one member of a couple who live together can claim and if a claimant or their partner have more than £16,000 in capital they are not eligible for the benefit.

Archer, of Paines Brook Way, Harold Hill, was sentenced to ten months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 250 hours of unpaid work.

Laws, of Woodbridge Lane, Harold Hill, was handed eight months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, and 150 hours of unpaid work on September 24.

The council’s counter fraud team investigates and prevents benefit fraud across Redbridge.

Cllr Ian Bond, deputy leader and cabinet member for resources, said the council “takes benefit fraud seriously”.

He added: “People who try and fiddle the system are taking money needed for public services and for others in genuine need, and we will be taking action to recover the overpaid benefit in full.”