04:55AM, Wednesday 22 May 2013
A benefits cheat who fleeced the system of nearly £35,000 while failing to declare joint ownership of a property in Spain has been sentenced.
Paul Gaffney, formerly of Boyn Valley Road in Maidenhead, had been found guilty in his absence of nine counts of making false benefits statements between 2008 and 2012.
A warrant for his arrest was issued after the initial court hearing on May 9 and the 54-year-old was escorted by police to the sentencing hearing at Reading Magistrates' Court on Wednesday last week.
Gaffney, now of Coulson Way in Burnham, was given a 240-hour community order, told to pay back £31,500 and costs of £3,500.
The prosecution was launched after a referral from the fraud investigation team at the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) office in Slough.
Evidence indicated that Gaffney was the joint owner of a property in Spain.
A joint investigation by the Royal Borough and the DWP revealed Gaffney had failed to declare this asset on all of his applications for benefits.
He received £34,963.52 in overpayments.
Speaking after the hearing Cllr Simon Dudley, Royal Borough cabinet member for finance, said: "Honest tax-paying residents will feel rightly angered to see such a blatant abuse of a system that is there to help those in genuine need."
The Beat the Cheat line for reporting suspected benefit fraud is 0500 353300.
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