Fraudster’s suspended sentence

A SOUTH Ockendon man was sentenced to nine months’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months after admitting charges of fraudulently obtaining nearly £32,000 in benefit that he was not entitled to.

Ricky Howick, aged 44, of Cherwell Grove, appeared for sentence at Basildon Crown Court on Tuesday (5 July).

His claim for Housing and Council Tax Benefit started in 2002 when he told Thurrock Council his sole income was from child-minding.

The court heard Howick had regularly completed review forms regarding his benefits, each time declaring an increasing amount of income from his child-minding, but stating he had no other income.

A council officer became suspicious about his true income when he was seen to be driving a 2006 Mercedes car and an enquiry began.

The investigator established that Howick had a number of bank accounts that had not been declared when he made his claims. These contained savings and income from an occupational pension.

Investigations also revealed Mr Howick was living a comfortable lifestyle buying expensive clothes and furniture, having accounts with Sky and Virgin Media and having various investment policies.

When interviewed at Grays Police Station, he admitted he had deliberately withheld the information about his pension in order to be able to claim benefit and said that he had bought the car in 2008 for £14,000 cash.

The court ordered him to pay £720 towards the council’s costs.

In addition to the penalty imposed by the court, Howick will also have to repay all of the benefit that had been paid to him.— £31,575.27.

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