Ellon woman’s £46,000 benefit fraud assets seized by police

AN ELLON woman has been ordered to repay £46,000 after being found guilty of claiming the money fraudulently.

Thursday, 4th August 2011, 11:21 am

Gillian Morris, of Cookston Cottages, Ellon, was made subject to a confiscation order on July 29, clawing back £46,855.83 which she claimed falsely as housing and council tax benefit, and income support. The total value of money she claimed falsely has been estimated at £56, 841.

Morris was sentenced to 11 months in prison last October at Aberdeen Sherrif Court following conviction for the crimes, which were committed over the course of more than a decade. She falsely claimed benefits by pretending to be a single parent when she was married, using her maiden name and listing her husband as her landlord when, in fact, they were married and living together.

The money was recovered by the Serious and Organised Crime Division, which investigates cases of fraud and money laundering, who were able to secure the confiscation through the Proceeds of Crime Act which sees ill-gotten gains taken away from criminals.

The investigation involved co-operation between the Department of Work and Pensions and Aberdeenshire Council, who worked closely with police to secure the confiscation order and today voiced their approval that the money had been taken from Morris.

Elaine Wilson, Jobcentre Plus Fraud Investigation Manager Scotland said: “No one should think they can get away with benefit theft. DWP and local authority investigators are working together to track down those guilty of stealing money they are not entitled to, bringing them before the courts and making them face the consequences of their action.”

A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “Benefit fraud is not a victimless crime. It is a serious offence that takes money out of the public purse, depriving the most vulnerable in society and the agencies that support them of much needed funds.

“Aberdeenshire Council is committed to working with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that those who commit fraud are found out and held accountable.”

Lindsey Miller, Head of the Serious and Organised Crime Division and the COPFS POCA Champion, said that the case served as a clear warning to anyone considering defrauding the public purse.

“Gillian Morris lied about her circumstances to over-claim income support benefit and housing benefit, and underpay council tax over a period of almost 11 years. In committing these crimes, she obtained funds from the public purse to which she was not entitled.

“We will continue to use Proceeds of Crime legislation to target anyone that would seek to benefit from their crimes. This case should be a warning to those who think that targeting public funds is an easy option, and a reminder that the legislation covers a wide range of offences where there has been financial benefit.”

Money recovered under the Proceeds of Crime Act is invested by Scottish Ministers in community projects aimed at alleviating the effects of crime. To date, £19.5 million has been invested in a range of free activities for young people through the CashBack programme. It includes a range of partnerships with Scottish sporting, arts and youth associations to provide diversionary activities for young people.