doc

A MAN who made up a Southend address to claim housing benefit has been jailed.

Roy Vassell, 47, of Guildford Road, Guildford, was handed a 12 week prison sentence for 15 counts of housing benefit fraud after magistrates found him guilty.

He must also pay back £1,615.54 of wrongfully-obtained housing benefit.

Mr Vassell received this amount in housing benefit from Southend Council, for what he described as a basement flat in Clifftown Road, Southend, but the council later cancelled his claim after he failed to reply to a request for more information.

However Mr Vassell then asked the Council for £4,100 worth of housing benefit to cover the rent arrears he said he owed his landlord.

He said that the landlord had hired a debt recovery company which was pursuing him for the money, which turned out to be his own company.

Vassell was jailed at Basildon Magistrates' Court on May 9.

The council’s corporate director for corporate services, Sally Holland said: “Although we are committed to paying benefits to those who are entitled, it also has a duty to protect the public purse and take action against people committing benefit fraud.

“It is an offence to claim benefits fraudulently and, as this case shows can lead to imprisonment as well as the repayment of the benefits.

“If anyone has suspicions over a person entitlement to benefit they can call the Corporate Fraud Investigation Team direct on 01702 215254, or e-mail counterfraud@southend.gov.uk.

“All information received is treated in the strictest confidence.”