AN ESTATE agent who claimed nearly £4,900 in housing benefit despite having a share of a £650 monthly income from rented house she part-owned has been given a night-time curfew and electronically tagged after being found guilty of benefit fraud.
Toni Wenlock, of Frewen Road in Cawston, denied dishonestly making a statement to Rugby Borough Council in order to claim £4,830 in housing benefit, and failing to tell the council of a change in her circumstances.
But the 46-year-old was found guilty at Nuneaton Magistrates’ Court and last Monday was sentenced to a 12 month community order, and ordered to pay £3,198 costs and a £60 victim surcharge.
Wenlock applied for housing benefit in July 2012, claiming she had no income to pay her rent. When she started work as a self-employed estate agent in October 2012 she still qualified for housing benefit due to her low income.
But in April 2013 the council received information Wenlock part-owned a house on Lytham Road that was rented out for more than £650 a month.
Council fraud officers launched an investigation, and when Wenlock was interviewed she confirmed she had failed to declare her part-ownership of the property and the bank account her share of the rent was paid into.
In court in February her defence told magistrates ill health and the medication she was taking led her to fill in the housing benefit application form incorrectly, and insisted her actions were not dishonest.
Magistrates were also told she had now paid back all the falsely claimed housing benefit.
Coun Leigh Hunt, the council’s communities spokesman, said: “This sentence sends a clear message to benefit cheats – the courts share the council’s commitment to cracking down on benefit fraud.
“We’re here to make sure those who need the support of the benefits system receive it.
“However, those who try and cheat the system need to know we’ll have no hesitation in taking the case to court.”