A WELL-OFF Stratford-upon-Avon pensioner has been found guilty of illegally pocketing £43,000 in benefits.
Dennis Hopwood, aged 75, who lives in Darlow Drive off Alcester Road, falsely claimed pension credit and council tax benefits for eight years, despite receiving £500 a week from a family business.
A former paratrooper, he received a 10 month jail sentence, suspended for 18 months, after the judge branded his behaviour “thoroughly dishonest”.
He was told he had narrowly avoided being sent to prison because of his early guilty plea, genuine remorse, and repayment of the £43,248 benefits.
At Coventry Crown Court last week he pleaded guilty to one count of cheating the public revenue between October 2003 and May 2012 by receiving £27,710 in Pension Credit, to which he was not entitled.
He also admitted evasion of liability by deception between October 2005 and May 2012 when he falsely claimed £15,538 in council tax benefit.
Hopwood’s wife Barbara, and son Paul were partners in the Bridge House Hotel in Acocks Green.
Investigators found that he received 80 weekly payments of £500, totalling £40,000, between August 2003 and February 2005, despite the fact he was claiming Pension Credit.
The hotel was sold in 2005 and Mr Hopwood and his wife bought a property in Darlow Drive, and were left with no mortgage. Neither she nor her son had any idea about the benefit fraud.
But the scam continued until 2012, when Stratford District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions launched an investigation, bringing the offences before the court.
Recorder Spencer Bernard told Mr Hopwood he had committed a “thoroughly dishonest and persistent scheme of offending. You knew exactly what was going on.”
Mr Hopwood has repaid his benefits in full, including the £15,538 council tax benefit back to Stratford-on-Avon District Council.
Cllr Maurice Howse, Enterprise, Housing and Revenues, said: “This case demonstrates that council tax benefit overpayments can accumulate over a period of time, to produce a significant amount of debt, if claimants do not properly disclose their circumstances.
“The defendant had wrongly claimed Pension Credit and council tax benefit and the offence rightly caught up with him in the end, despite many years in receipt of the benefits.”
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