A former police officer who admitted falsely claiming over £45,000 in benefits while living in Austrailia has been given a 12-month suspended sentence.
Vanessa Turner, who worked for Surrey Police, was living in Australia while claiming nearly £38,000 in housing benefit, £5,686 in council tax benefit and £3,327 in income support over a period of nearly four years.
Turner, 32, told the authorities she was a single parent living in Park Lane, Croydon
But the council’s antifraud team received an anonymous tip-off that she was living in Australia with the father of her three children, Jack Price.
Turner denied knowing Price and said she had been holidaying in Australia.
Council investigators discovered she had been making monthly transfers to Price’s bank account and payments to a shipping company to transport her belongings to Australia. She later pleaded guilty and was sentenced at Croydon Crown Court earlier this month, the council has disclosed.
Judge Timothy Stowe said it was systematic fraud and she had disguised herself as an honest tenant and had deceived both the council and the Department of Work and Pensions
She was given a 12 month suspended sentence and ordered to complete 160 hours unpaid work for the community and pay £2,258.60 towards the costs of the case.
The council are now in the process of recovering the £45,000 benefit claim.
Councillor Dudley Mead, cabinet member for finance and resources, said: “I hope this case acts as warning to others cheating the system- it doesn’t matter who or where you are we will catch up with you eventually and will always prosecute where possible.”
“Croydon benefit system is to help people in the borough who are in genuine need and it is criminals like this who set out to fraudulently claim money they are not entitled to who make it more difficult for honest people to get the help they need.”
If anyone wishes to anonymously report a fraud they should call Fraud Line on 08003289270.