A Manchester man who was living in Portugal while illegally claiming more than £17,000 of housing benefit has been ordered to repay the money.
It took Trafford Council seven years to realise that 63-year-old Sidney Hyams, from Urmston, had dishonestly obtained £17,179.15 in housing benefit but did not live in England. At Manchester Crown Court last Wednesday (April 27), Hyams pleaded guilty to benefit fraud, claiming the money on the basis that he needed help to live at his west Manchester property. While in Portugal he had been overpaid benefit between September 2001 and November 2008.
Counter-fraud officers at Trafford Council were alerted after a data-matching exercise pinpointed the fact that Hyams had recently moved out of the borough. It took them further investigation to realise that he had actually moved more than 1,000 miles away. Hyams was given 250 hours of community service and ordered to pay a compensation order of £500 by the court. But Trafford Council has additionally ordered him to repay the entire sum through its civil recovery procedure.
Its director of finance, Ian Duncan, said: "Trafford Council will not tolerate benefit fraud and will take any action necessary to recoup the money dishonestly claimed."