Benefit fraudster jailed

John Stewart.
John Stewart.

A fraudster who used a false name and bank account to secure a £194,000 mortgage while scamming the benefits system of more than £44,000 has been jailed for 32 months.

John Stewart, 62, used the loan to buy a property in Morecambe, where his son and daughter in law lived, a court was told.

Stewart, formerly of Broadway, Lancaster, pleaded guilty to two counts of fraud, obtaining services by deception and obtaining property by deception at Preston Crown Court.

The court heard Stewart has a lengthy criminal record containing numerous offences of dishonesty.

In 2006 the defendant bought a property valued at £115,000, putting down a cash deposit of £11,500 and taking a mortgage in a false name for the remaining £103,500.

However when the mortgage company Ideus Mortgages was taken over by HBOS, Stewart was given the opportunity for early redemption and remortgaged the property for a further £91,000.

The court heard Stewart had been in receipt of Income Support since the mid 1990s but as a result of the investigations into mortgage fraud it transpired payments had been made into a bank account which suggested Stewart was not unemployed.

Between 2005 and 2007 Stewart defrauded the DWP out of a total of £44,250.

Judge Simon Newell, sentencing, said: “What this does show is that there has been deliberate and dishonest treatment of both the benefits agencies and the banks and financial institutions over a period of a number of years.

“That is something that is not inconsistent with your criminal history.

“There has to be an immediate sentence of custody.”

Speaking after the sentencing, PC Stephen Dixon, Financial Investigator, said: “We are very happy with the sentence given today and hope that it sends out the message that Lancashire Police are dedicated to tackling fraud.

“This has been a complex investigation and by working closely with our partners at the Department for Work and Pensions we have been able to present such strong evidence against John Stewart. “

An application under the Proceeds of Crime Act will now be pursued by Lancashire Police in an effort to recover any benefit obtained by John Stewart.

Vernon Sanderson, DWP Regional Fraud Manager said: “This case typifies the results that are being realised through the excellent joint working relationship between Lancashire Police and the DWP.

“Without our police colleagues’ help, this fraud would have continued for some time, but now another benefit thief has been stopped in his tracks.

Anyone with information about Benefit Fraud should contact the National Benefit Fraud Hotline on 0800 854440.