Worthing woman sentenced for benefit fraud

A WORTHING woman has been sentenced for dishonestly claiming almost £19,000 in benefits.

Toria Trask, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances and one count of dishonestly making false statements to obtain benefits at Worthing Magistrates’ Court on April 16.

She was sentenced to 16 weeks imprisonment for each offence, to run concurrently.

The sentence was suspended for 24 months on the condition Trask complete 150 hours of unpaid work for each offence, within the next 12 months.

She was also ordered to pay the full amount of £918.90 prosecution costs incurred by Worthing Borough Council.

The court heard Trask of Rochester Close, Worthing, first claimed Income Support in February, 2008, and both Housing and Council Tax Benefit in January, 2009, in the name of Ms Toria Easey.

She claimed she was a lone parent of two children and was in receipt of certain other DWP benefits.

Benefits were awarded based upon this information.

In 2010, the matter was referred for a joint investigation to be undertaken by The Department of Work and Pensions and Worthing Borough Council.

Ms Easey requested her benefits now be paid into a Santander account in the name of Toria Trask.

As proof of the change of name, she provided a marriage certificate to a Mr Wayne Trask dated 30/5/2009.

But, at the same time, she completed a declaration stating that they had never lived together as they had separated on the same day.

Following a lengthy investigation, it was established Mr Trask had been in residence at Rochester Close with his wife since May, 2009, and was in full-time employment.

In total, Trask received £18,998.03 benefits to which she was not entitled.

Worthing Borough Council and The Department of Work and Pensions will be seeking civil recovery of the overpayments.

Sentencing, magistrates said they had taken into account her guilty pleas, but had also considered the total amount of the overpayments and the period of time over which the offences had been committed.

They informed Trask she came “very close” to receiving a custodial sentence and, if she committed any further offence within the next 24 months, it was likely she would be sent straight to prison.