A Wellington pensioner has been sentenced to three months in prison for a benefits fraud totalling almost £13,000. Thomas McWhinnie of 50, Bulford, was also given an eight week overnight curfew, as the jail term was suspended for 12 months.
Mr McWhinnie failed to declare his private pension from Middlesbrough Council. This was picked up on a Housing Benefit Matching Service check. He denied the offence when he appeared before Taunton Magistrates, claiming he did not consider this money to be his as it was earmarked to pay to his ex-wife as maintenance for his daughter.
However, McWhinnie was found guilty and was sentenced to 12 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months and an eight week curfew from 6pm to 6am – all conditional upon him repaying his overpayment. He was overpaid Housing Benefit of £9,917.66 and Council Tax Benefit of £2,945.11.
Cllr Vivienne Stock-Williams, who holds the Taunton council’s Corporate Resources portfolio, said: “Benefits are there for those in real need. Benefit fraud is a crime against everyone in the community and we will consider prosecuting all cases where we have enough evidence.”