Benefits swindler, 70, avoids jail sentence

Snaresbrook Crown Court Pic: John Stillwell/PA

Snaresbrook Crown Court Pic: John Stillwell/PA - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Ima

A pensioner who claimed more than £70,000 in false housing benefit payments has been spared jail because she is too old.

Mercy Challiah, 70, of Sandringham Close, Barkingside netted £71,450.87 over an 11 year period of false statements between 1999-2010, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Redbridge Council said it has begun proceedings to recover the full balance of the overpaid benefits.

Chelliah falsely claimed she was living in privately rented accommodation while she lived at the houses of her two daughters Maralyn Jeevabalaramani, 46, of Mulberry way, Ilford and Jacqueline Keneston, 49, of Sandringham Close.

Chelliah and her daughters were all charged with dishonestly making false statements and each given 12 month prison sentences suspended for 18 months in addition to victim surcharges of £100 each.

Jeevabalaramani and Ms Keneston were also given 250 hours of compulsory unpaid work.

A spokesman from Redbridge Council said: “This case was investigated by Redbridge Council’s benefit fraud team. It was a direct result of their hard work that the Council prosecuted the perpetrators.

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“The full and complete recovery of the overpaid benefit has already commenced. In addition to seeking recovery, the council has also started confiscation proceedings under the Proceeds of Crime Act. A decision on the confiscation proceedings is expected in May and, if successful, the perpetrators will be required to repay the debt in full within six months.

“We investigate all cases of fraud to stop fraudsters stealing from the public purse. It is a criminal offence and we are cracking down very hard. As a result, deserving people are getting much needed help. Our message is clear – if you commit fraud, you won’t get away with it. We strongly encourage residents to help us and anonymously report fraud.”