A man who cheated Havering Council out of over £30,000 through council tax and housing benefit fraud has been jailed.
David Richards, 62, of no fixed abode, was given a seven-month prison sentence at Westminster Magistrates Court on Tuesday January 21 after refusing to pay a court order of £18,388.90.
Richards was originally successfully prosecuted in 2011 after investigations found he had claimed £33,757 from Havering Council, and £16,312 from the Department of Work and Pensions – a total loss to the public purse of £50,069.
The council’s fraud investigators discovered Richards had flagrantly been living a life of luxury at the expense of local tax payers. Investigations found the defendant was not only running a successful business with substantial assets, but he was the owner of seven vehicles, a luxury caravan and two speed boats – one of which was called ‘well dodgy’.
Despite a suspended sentence and a proceeds of crime order being issued – requiring Richards to pay back £41,550 – he still refused to pay the amount owed – even after it was reduced to £18,409.
District Judge Samuel Goozze, told the defendant: “You were given two months to sell your assets and pay in full. You have made no attempts to pay, being dilatory, not expediting matters, keeping assets hidden. You leave no option but to serve the seven-month prison sentence.”
Councillor Damian White, Leader of Havering Council, said: “After shamelessly abusing the benefits system at the expense of honest, hard-working, local taxpayers and then repeatedly dodging his responsibility to pay it back or accepting any kind of regret, I am pleased that this defendant has finally got his just desserts.
“This case sends out a very strong message that Havering Council will not tolerate anyone who tries to rip off the public, and all allegations that people are defrauding the system will be investigated.
“I strongly urge any of our residents who suspect someone of dishonestly claiming benefits to call the benefits investigation team in confidence, on 01708 432405, and action will be taken.”
In addition to the seven month prison sentence, the courts will continue to pursue Mr Richards for the unpaid debt plus interest.