Cheltenham woman told to pay up

7 July 2010, 06:00

Pay up or go to jail!

That is the warning to a Cheltenham woman who made thousands of pounds through benefit fraud.

In May 2006 48 year old Deborah Lillian Smith pleaded guilty to 12 separate offences of benefit fraud following a thorough investigation carried out by the Economic Crime Unit and the Major Crime Unit at Gloucestershire Constabulary.

In July 2007 Bristol Crown Court made an order, under the Criminal Justice Act of 1988, to confiscate the value of assets gained from her criminal activity to the sum of £98,712.16.

The assets, which were subject to a High Court Restraint Order, included £56,818.66 in cash, an 18 carat gold Rolex watch valued at £7950, a number of pieces of gold jewellery valued at £15,534 numerous porcelain items valued at £3409.50 and a Mercedes car worth £15000.  Under the order the value of these items, including the car, must be confiscated.

A confiscation order aims to recoup money from the assets offenders have acquired from their criminal lifestyle. Police submit a list of assets, with estimated values, to the courts for the judge to decide how much the offender should pay back and the time frame in which they should do so.

The monies gained are then distributed throughout the criminal justice system and split between the Home Office, Crown Prosecution Service, Courts and Police. If the money is not returned, the offender could receive a jail sentence for failing to comply with the order.

Between April 2009 and February 2010 Gloucestershire Constabulary’s Economic Crime Unit secured 37 confiscation orders and 29 cash forfeiture orders under the Proceeds of Crime Act, in order to recover funds directly or indirectly linked to criminal activity.

On Thursday last week, July 1, Smith made an application to vary the amount she was due to pay but after hearing evidence from both Smith and Financial Investigators for Gloucestershire Police the judge made the decision that the application was not credible. As such Smith was ordered to pay the outstanding amount on the original confiscation order, £17,963.72.

In accordance with legislation a nominal reduction of £1 was made to the order, but £2000 was added to the order in interest and a costs order of £1000 in court time and legal fees was also made.

Financial Investigator for Gloucestershire Constabulary Denise Sutton, who has conducted the financial investigation since 2004, said;

“This latest case shows the determination of Gloucestershire Constabulary to recover funds from criminals.

“It should send a clear message that we will make whatever effort is needed and no matter how long it takes, to not only bring criminals to justice but to ensure they are not enjoying the profits from the crimes.”

Smith must now pay the outstanding amount within six months, if she fails to do so she will have to serve a six month prison sentence.