If you thought that a computer selects benefits claimants at random to investigate, think again. There simply aren’t enough resources to select people at random. Your Local Authority and the Department for Work and Pensions are smarter than that. In this definitive guide to benefit fraud, I’ll reveal the main ways that individuals come to the attention of the investigators.
When is surveillance used? How frequently and what types of fraud does it target? I offer a real life case study of the lengths that the investigators will go to in order to gather evidence on suspects that they feel are playing the system. You may be surprised at what I reveal.
I have identified four possible outcomes of a benefit fraud investigation. I will explain exactly what those outcomes are along with the consequences of each.
Every case is different, however the severity of the outcome will very much depend on certain factors and this will allow us to predict an outcome based upon your own circumstances. In this section we’ll cover exactly what you can expect to be a realistic outcome based upon your circumstances.
Interesting question, not everyone does pay the money back, is there an opportunity for you to reduce the financial consequences of a crime that you are convicted of? I will tell you in this section.
A benefit fraud investigation can often reveal details of a person’s lifestyle. If that lifestyle is in any way linked to other criminal enterprises then the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 can come into force. This is not a good outcome as it is linked to the possible confiscation of assets. I will tell you exactly when this becomes relevant and how to minimise the impact.
I answer this question in terms of my own experience. I spoke on several occasions with the investigators following my interview. At this point you may be wondering if it is possible to come clean and do a deal to reduce the risk of prosecution. Or if prosecution is inevitable is it possible to mitigate the offence for a more lenient judgement?
Irrespective of the seriousness of the fraud charges against you, if prosecuted, your case will always be referred to the magistrates’ court. Magistrates, however, generally, only deal with ‘summary offences’. More serious offences are passed, by the magistrates, to the Crown Court. Also there are offences known as either way offences. Such offences can be heard in the magistrates’ court, or requested to be heard in the Crown Court, by either the prosecution or the defence. I provide more clarity in this area.
If your case remains in the magistrates’ court I offer advice on how to represent yourself, advice on using a solicitor and advice on how to avoid being over charged for a day in court. I will also identify the likely outcomes. In the case of benefits fraud, the process in the magistrates’ court is not a single visit. I’ll explain the process in detail, based upon personal experience. I’ll also provide you with the most important information that you absolutely need to know if convicted of an offence in the magistrates’ court.
The key difference between Crown Court and magistrates’ court is that in Crown Court the defendant will be dealt with by a judge and jury consisting of 12 members of the public.
That said there are some major advantages to having your case heard in Crown Court. I personally was tempted to go down this route from a strategic point of view. It was certainly an option for me as my case fell into the category of ‘either way’.
None of the information that I read prior to attending court helped me very much, even the first lot of legal advice that I got turned out to be inaccurate and certainly not in my best interest. Also there are certain details with the court process that you simply cannot afford to miss. Ultimately, you may not have to attend court, but I am going to prepare you for every eventually and most importantly guide you through every step of the process, offering you the most complete and practical advice that you will find anywhere on the web.
I am going to tell you exactly how I got two of the charges against me dropped and as a consequence reduced the severity of my sentence. This advice alone is worth the cost of the guide many times over as each charge as the potential to negatively impact the overall sentence.
In this section I will describe to you exactly how the sentencing process works, the key steps involved and the opportunity that you have to minimise the outcome, even right up until the end of the process.
I will disclose the charges that I faced, my own experience of the court system and the sentence that I received.
For completeness I have included statistics on the number of people investigated for benefit fraud compared to other criminal offences. Also in this section I will consider the rate of prosecutions and convictions.
I offer several useful links that will assist you at various stages within your own personal case.
One of the things that you are most likely to want to know is exactly how long the investigation process is going to take. So, in this section I have provided a complete time line that covers the entire process; from the point that I became aware that I was under investigation, right the way through to the conclusion of my case. This will help you to understand everything that is involved, as well as how long each step of the process typically takes.