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Benefit cheat ordered to pay more than £19,000 by judge

Ipswich Crown Court. (3279025)
Ipswich Crown Court. (3279025)

A Suffolk benefit cheat has been ordered by a judge to hand over more than £19,000.

Stephen Thorne, 57, of The Street, Preston St Mary, was handed a suspended prison sentence in April after admitting submitting false claims.

He had failed to reveal that he was part owner of a property at Horsey in Norfolk when he submitted claims for Job Seekers Allowance and Income Support over a 10 year period starting in 2002.

The prosecution said the claims had never been genuine and were fraudulent from the outset.

Today (Wednesday), Thorne returned to Ipswich Crown Court for a Proceeds of Crime Act hearing designed to recoup as much as possible of what he gained from his offending - which specialist financial investigators found to total £19,233.

The same investigation revealed that self-employed computer programmer Thorne had assets allowing him to pay the full amount.

Thorne was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for 24 months. Judge Goodin also made an order requiring him to forfeit £19,233 within the next three months or have nine months added to his sentence.

When Thorne appeared in court in April, Judge Goodin was told that Thorne had made full admissions about what he had done when interviewed by officials from the Department of Work and Pensions in late 2016.

Thorne told investigators: "It is a relief. I've been worried about it for a long time."

Thorne said the property in Norfolk had been jointly owned with his late partner but he would not be receiving her share of the proceeds when it was sold.

He added: "I have no intention of ever doing anything wrong again."

Thorne had pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation to gain Income Support, failed to disclose that he has assets when claiming Job Seekers Allowance and obtained a money transfer from the DWP by deception.

Sentencing, Judge Goodin told Thorne: "This was a long period of dishonesty. It was fraudulent from the outset."

In addition, Judge Goodin said Thorne would be required to participate in a 30 day rehabilitation activity programme and complete 150 hours of unpaid community work.