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Gloucestershire Business News

Cheltenham man defrauded three government bodies

A 48-year-old Cheltenham man who defrauded three government bodies of £56,246.99 - but has since paid the money back- has been sentenced to an eight-month suspended jail term.

Shainne Newman of Croft Avenue, Charlton Kings, admitted defrauding the Department of Work and Pensions of £38,576.68 and Cheltenham Borough Council of £13,807.68 housing benefit and £3,772.55 council tax support £3,772.55.

At Gloucester Crown Court on Thursday (November 24) prosecutor Charlotte Evans said Newman had failed to notify the DWP or council of changes in his circumstances when he obtained full time work.

She said that all the benefits were means-tested and Newman had an obligation to notify the authorities of any changes in his circumstances after he had gained employment.

Ms Evans said: "Newman legitimately claimed benefits from November 15, 2010, and this was based on having no additional income.

"However, Newman failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions and Cheltenham Borough Council when he gained employment, and this took him over the allotted hours and affected his claim benefits.

"It came to light that Newman had gained employment when his volunteering work in a school evolved into him becoming an employee.

"But due to the pandemic, Newman could not be interviewed for some time. When he was spoken to, he explained that he had suffered from mental health issues. He admitted that he hadn't informed the relevant departments that he was now employed. He stated he would pay back the monies he owed."

Andrew Banks, defending, said: "The genesis of Newman's offending stems from 2008 when he suffered a number of calamities in his life. His marriage broke down and went through a divorce; he had an accident at work which meant him losing his job; he had a nervous breakdown as a result of these two factors.

"He then legitimately claimed Jobseekers allowance. During the course of his claim he would have been entitled to some benefit, if not all, on occasions.

"As a result of his catastrophic events in his life, he built up significant debts amounting to £70,000 as well as losing his home.

"Having self-diagnosed that he suffered from neurological disabilities, he volunteered at a local school to help a pupil suffering from the same complications that he had grown up with.

"He began as a volunteer, but when this was deemed as a success he was employed to become a teaching assistant to help pupils suffering from autism, providing one to one support to the children needed help.

"But on the very day he started paid employment, his stepfather died. His stepfather was the man who had helped him through his financial crisis by filling out forms and writing letters on his behalf.

"Because this support had been removed from his life, the defendant failed to notify the various bodies to his new employment status as he no longer had the mature support to advise him, and he didn't know how to resolve the situation.

"He effectively stuck his head in the sand and did nothing about it. His employment is at the lower level of the pay scale. He hasn't been living a lavish lifestyle.

"Part of the reason he failed to communicate is partially due to his own learning difficulties. Eventually he was challenged about the situation and made full admission with the help of legal representatives, and he expressed his remorse when he realised what he had done.

"Newman suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), which was diagnosed late in his life as well as being on the autistic spectrum. He is still working as a teaching assistant and calls that environment his safe place. He provides support to vulnerable students at the school.

"Additionally, Newman is the sole carer for his mother, and until recently, an elderly aunt. He has paid all the monies back to the relevant bodies, courtesy of loan from a family member, and he has shown significant remorse which I feel shows that there is a real prospect of rehabilitation therefore any sentence could be suspended."

Newman pleaded guilty to failing to notify a change of circumstances to obtain benefit between September 26, 2013 and September 26, 2020, dishonestly failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that he was in remunerated employment; between April 1, 2015 and September 20, 2020, he dishonestly failed to notify Cheltenham Borough Council of the change of circumstances that would affect housing benefit because he was in remunerated employment; he committee fraud between April 1, 2015 and April 20, 2020 by failing to notify Cheltenham Borough Council that he was in remunerated employment intending to make a gain, namely council tax support.

The Judge, Recorder Don Tait told Newman: "From everything I have read, you are a complex individual. You suffer from a number of complex conditions, which you have to cope with.

"Nevertheless, you have a history of putting other people first, before yourself. You are a carer for various members of your family. Additionally, you are in employment, which is good as you are endeavouring to assist students with conditions similar to yourself.

"However, it was a significant amount of money which you appropriated over a lengthy period of time. You have since repaid the full amount and there is no loss to the various authorities who were paying you money.

"I note that this was not fraudulent from the outset. I see no useful purpose in sending you to prison, especially as there are a number of people who rely on you for their care."

The judge sentenced Newman to an eight-month prison term but suspended it for two years. He made no order for costs but ordered him to pay a mandatory surcharge of £100.

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