Forged tenancy agreements used in council tax fraud

An investigation into a council tax fraud involving forged tenancy agreements has been uncovered and successfully prosecuted by City of York Council.

Joanne Smith (aged 39 previously of Howden Lane, Crockey Hill), provided the council with three forged private tenancy agreements for properties within the York area between 2017 and 2018.

The agreements stated that she was the sole tenant at each property, when in fact she had an additional adult living with her. This meant she was not entitled to the £1,202.43 council tax reduction nor the £618.34 single person discount that she claimed.

An investigation into the authenticity of these tenancy agreements was conducted by Veritau, the council’s fraud investigation service. Veritau were notified of the fraud following concerns that the documents Miss Smith had provided were false and were an attempt to obtain a reduction to her council tax that she was not entitled to.

During the course of the investigation, Miss Smith was interviewed under caution by Veritau officers and admitted to forging one of the tenancy agreements, and that she had provided it to the council to obtain a reduction to her council tax.

The investigation concluded with Miss Smith pleading guilty to one charge of fraud and six charges of forgery and counterfeiting at York Magistrates Court on Monday 29 July 2019.

On Tuesday 20 August 2019, Miss Smith was sentenced by York Magistrates to a 14-month custodial sentence suspended for 18 months and 20 days of rehabilitation activity. She was also ordered to repay £1,820.77 which is the full amount of council tax reduction and single person discount, and to pay a victim surcharge of £115.

In her defence, the mitigating circumstances offered were that she and her children have health issues and that she had suffered a family bereavement in 2017.

Councillor Nigel Ayre, City of York Council’s Executive Member for Finance and Performance, said: “This is a case of fraud against the authority, made all the more serious by involving forged documents.

“The actions in this case were an attempt to defraud the public purse. We encourage anyone with any information on suspected fraudulent activity to phone the fraud hotline on 0800 9179 247 or email fraud@york.gov.uk .”

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