Wisbech resident told she could face jail after £7,000 housing benefit and council tax fraud

PUBLISHED: 15:33 30 December 2009 | UPDATED: 09:27 02 June 2010

Fenland Council: action against benefit cheat

Fenland Council: action against benefit cheat

A WISBECH resident who claimed more than £7,000 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit has been found guilty of fraud following a trial lasting a day and a half at Wisbech Magistrates Court. Fenland District Council investigators found that her husba

A WISBECH resident who claimed more than £7,000 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit has been found guilty of fraud following a trial lasting a day and a half at Wisbech Magistrates Court.

Fenland District Council investigators found that her husband was living with her throughout the period of her claim despite declaring herself as a single parent.

Zdenka Kanalosova, of Grosvenor Road, Wisbech, came to the UK around April 2007. Her husband, Juraj Kanalos, had arrived from the Czech Republic just a few months earlier seeking to find work and a home for them to settle in.

It was claimed in court that they separated after only a few weeks living in the UK although no verifiable address could be provided for him.

In December 2007, Mrs Kanalosova moved to Grosvenor Road as a private tenant and successfully claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit from the council, saying she was a single parent.

In late 2008 Council investigators acted upon a tip-off which suggested that Mrs Kanalosova was still living with her husband. They uncovered a number of links between Mr Kanalos and the Grosvenor Road address, including his banking details, loan applications, his car and his employment details.

In addition, an undercover surveillance operation carried out between February and March this year showed Mr Kanalos coming and going from the property at all times of day and night.

Mrs Kanalosova had earlier pleaded "not guilty" to the charge of failing to promptly report a change in her circumstances.

During the trial, the court heard evidence from Mrs Kanalosova, Mr Kanalos, his employer, the head teacher of a local school, a Fenland District Council investigator and other council staff.

In delivering the guilty verdict, the magistrates referred to the "overwhelming" prosecution evidence, the "inconsistent" account given by Mrs Kanalosova and the "evasive" nature of her husband in giving evidence.

The case was adjourned to January 15 for sentencing. Magistrates warned Mrs Kanalosova that all options were being considered, including a custodial sentence.

Cllr Kit Owen, Fenland District Council's portfolio holder responsible for benefits, said: "Our benefits service is recognised as being among the best in the country and we work very hard to ensure that anyone who is genuinely entitled to benefits gets them. At the same time we remain determined to crack down on any cheats who abuse the system. Sooner or later they will be caught and will have to face the consequences."

Anyone wishing to report a suspected case of benefit fraud should call the council's special hotline on 01354 622583 or email fraud@fenland.gov.uk .

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