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Norwich benefit cheats face having to sell house and car to pay off debts

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 August 2011 | UPDATED: 12:37 08 August 2011

Norwich City Council has warned of a 'get tough' approach on benefit cheats.

Norwich City Council has warned of a 'get tough' approach on benefit cheats.

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Two benefit cheats who swindled thousands of pounds in taxpayers money face having to sell their property to pay off their debt.

Norwich Crown Court has ordered that Terence Block, 59, of Earlham Green Lane in Norwich, must pay back the £20,000 he owes to Norwich City Council - and that could force him to sell a bungalow he owns.

And Sylve Provot, 59, of Clover Court, Sprowston, faces selling her car to pay back some of the £3,171 she was not entitled to claim.

Norwich City Council had applied for its first ever restraint order under the Proceeds of Crime Act to freeze the assets of Mr Block.

As reported in the Evening News, Block was given a four-month suspended prison sentence in May after he admitted claiming more than £20,000 in benefits he was not entitled to.

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.

At a confiscation hearing, the crown court heard he owned that bungalow, with an equity of £50,000, which he could now have to sell to pay back the money he swindled.

The court also said he must pay £3,150 towards the council’s costs of taking the case to court. The money must be paid by February next year.

The city council also applied for a confiscation order after Provot fiddled £3,305 from the state by not declaring she had inherited £29,000.

The crown court heard in April how she had claimed council tax and housing benefit from the city council as well as income support from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), but failed to notify the authorities when she inherited 34,000 euros.

She admitted failing to notify the change in circumstances and Judge Peter Jacobs said it was public money which had been defrauded and the cash had to be repaid – especially at a time when everyone, including local authorities, were facing cutbacks.

Last week, the court heard she owned a car, which has an estimated value of £1,800, and she faces having to sell that vehicle within 28 days to pay back some of the cash she owes,

If the pair do not pay the cash, they face a spell in prison.

A spokesman for Norwich City Council said: “This is the first time the city council has used legal powers at its disposal to secure two confiscation orders.

“These in turn led to the confiscation hearings which will see the money that was fraudulently obtained returned to the public purse.

“These orders, brought under the Proceeds of Crime Act, shows what our strategy will be in the future and reflects our determination not to tolerate benefit fraud.”

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