Ruen Bennett, 59, was overpaid almost £6,000 before trying to blame the Department of Work and Pensions for a “mistake”. However, a court heard Bennett’s actions “amounted to dishonesty”.
Bennett’s cousin died in November 2016 but the cheat claimed the extra cash until October 21, 2018, Birmingham Live reports.
He walked free from Birmingham Magistrates’ Court last week after he was found guilty of failing to notify the Department of Work and Pensions of a change in circumstances.
Bennett was instead sentenced to a 12-month community order.
Speaking in court, Bennett claimed he called the Jobcentre moments after officially registering the death of his cousin. He said a staff member promised to call him back but never did and argued it was not his fault the job centre “forgot to throw the switch”.
Bennett’s deceit only emerged in October 2018 after he called to report a change in circumstance in relation to another benefit claim following a stay in hospital.
In June that year, he had signed a document confirming he was still caring for his cousin and in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.
Between January 23, 2017 and October 21, 2018 Bennett was overpaid £5,752.30, which he will have to pay back.
Shawn Williams, prosecuting, said: “He said he made a call and was expecting a callback and that call never came. The call never came because there wasn’t a call made in the first place. Why didn’t he follow it up?”
He added: “What would his motive be? You can only get away with it for so long. How do you bring a fraud like that to the end, how do you stop it? You can’t phone up and say ‘my cousin’s just died’ that would be easily discovered.
“He assessed the way to put it right was to say ‘I did tell you and you haven’t actioned it’.”
In the witness box, Bennett was asked why he never chased up the call back he was expecting, to which he replied: “I didn’t see the need. They knew he was dead. It was up to them.”
He claimed he did not notice he was still being paid Carer’s Allowance because his pay only stated he had received money from the DWP, but it did not specify what it was for.
Bennett, from Perry Barr, Birmingham, told the court he had become involved in an argument with a job centre worker in October 2018 when they informed him he was still in receipt of payment.
When quizzed about the statement he signed in June 2018 he said: “I actually didn’t read the thing properly. I signed it but I couldn’t read his (DWP investigator’s) writing.
“If he mentioned Carer’s Allowance on that day I would have been down his throat. The reason he called me was because I was working, and it was about my income support. He didn’t mention Carer’s Allowance.
“If he did I would have put him in his place there and then.
“A manager called me and said it’s a mistake, someone’s forgotten to throw the switch to turn off the money. Somewhere down the line, someone hasn’t told the machine or whatever to stop paying me. I left it there.”
Bennett added: “They should have done their job in the first place. It shouldn’t have to take me to come into court. I wasn’t doing it trying to rob anybody. I went out of my way and reported it.”
The chairman of the bench said: “We are satisfied the defendant didn’t report the death of his cousin and never confirmed the change in his circumstances.”
Bennett must complete 20 days of rehabilitation activity requirement, adhere to a 13-week electronically tagged curfew between 7pm and 7am as well as pay an £85 victim surcharge.
The DWP will recover the overpaid benefit separately.