City council uses new power to freeze assets of Norwich benefit cheat

Benefit cheats have been sent a stern warning after Norwich City Council used a power for the first time to ensure the money a fraudster makes when he sells his property goes back into the public purse.

The city council successfully applied for its first ever restraint order to freeze the assets of a benefit cheat which will guarantee �20,000 which was claimed fraudulently is clawed back.

The order was obtained yesterday at Norwich Crown Court and was served on Terence Block, 59, of Earlham Green Lane, Norwich.

As reported in the Evening News, Block had claimed more than �20,000 in benefits he was not entitled to and appeared at court on Friday to be sentenced for 11 benefit fraud offences.

These included 10 counts of making a false representation to obtain benefit and one count of failing to notify a change of circumstances.

He had fraudulently claimed incapacity benefit, housing benefit and council tax benefit.

The court heard Block had claimed incapacity benefit while working, had a number of undeclared bank accounts and had said he did not have any property when he actually owned a bungalow which his mother had lived in.

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Block's solicitor, Andrew Oliver, said he had bought the bunaglow in 2003 with the aid of a very large mortgage so that his mother could continue to live there, and that he had always operated on the basis that it was his mother's property.

Block was given a four month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months and ordered to comply with a curfew, but Mr Oliver said he planned to sell the bungalow and pay back the money he had claimed fraudulently.

But, to make sure he does, the city council successfully obtained the restraint order against him, under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

This is the first time the city council has obtained a restraint order using its new powers after a council officer became an accredited counter fraud specialist last month.

The order means when Block sells his property he had to retaining enough money from the proceeds to pay back the housing benefit, council tax benefit and incapacity benefit that he fraudulently obtained from the council and the Department for Work and Pensions.

A Norwich City Council spokesman said: 'The restraint order shows the council is prepared to use all the means available at its disposal - not just to prosecute benefit fraudsters but also, where they have assets, to compel them to pay back the money they owe to the public purse sooner rather than later.'