Gomersal couple’s £25k benefit fraud scam

Leeds Crown Court.
Leeds Crown Court.

A man who pretended he was unemployed claimed more than £25,000 in benefits while running his own business.

Terence Edward Leach, 39, and his wife Elizabeth, 40, also had cash coming in from work he was doing for another firm and renting out their house, Leeds Crown Court heard on Wednesday.

The couple, from Gomersal, told Kirklees Council he was a jobless house husband and she was a cleaner on a low income, making fake wage slips to support their claim.

The court heard they were living in a rented house in Batley at the time, which was paid for with housing benefit – but they were secretly renting out a house they owned in Reevy Road West, Bradford, for £500 a month.

David Birrell, prosecuting for Kirklees Council, told the court Terence Leach applied for Jobseeker’s Allowance, council tax benefit and housing benefit early in 2009.

Officials became suspicious in 2011 and went to their Batley house where they saw a van advertising his firm, Tez Alarms. Inside the house they found bank statements and advertising leaflets for the company.

Mr Birrell said Tez Alarms brought in business worth £50,000 while the Leaches were making false claims.

He said officers traced a customer who received a letter from Tez Alarms signed by Elizabeth Leach, meaning she was an “active participant in this fraud”.

By the time the offences came to light Leach had been paid £17,132 in housing benefit, £3,099 in council tax benefit and £4,085 in Jobseeker’s Allowance.

Fraser Hunter, mitigating for Elizabeth Leach, said she had played a lesser role and had not been involved from the start. She admitted fraud and was given a six month prison sentence, suspended for two years, with 100 hours’ unpaid work.

Mitigating for Terence Leach, Jeremy Coleman said their Bradford house had since been repossessed.

He said the couple had not lived a luxurious lifestyle with villas abroad or driving luxury cars but committed the offences to try and get out of debt.

He said father-of-four Leach, who admitted fraud and making articles in the use of fraud, could become “a gainful member of society.”

Jailing Leach for eight months, Judge Guy Kearl QC said he had persistently claimed benefits over a two and a half year period at a time when he had considerable income.

He added: “I take the view you wanted more money to sustain a lifestyle you couldn’t afford.”