Student Criminologist Guilty of Benefit Fraud
Sentenced to 200 hours of community work
A criminology student from West Ealing narrowly escaped prison after he was convicted for a second time of benefit fraud.
Elias Bernard, 27, of Sherwood Close was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Monday, 12 September. He was given a six month suspended prison sentence and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid community work.
Bernard was found guilty of three charges at an earlier hearing, but was remanded in custody while awaiting sentencing after the court heard he had already been convicted of benefit fraud in 2004.
The case follows an investigation by Ealing Council that revealed that at various dates between 2005 and 2009 Bernard falsely claimed £5,697 in housing and council tax benefits.
At the time he was a full-time student, reading criminology and philosophy at Roehampton University. He was in receipt of student support income despite having signed a declaration to say he was not a student.
The fraud was uncovered as part of the National Fraud Initiative, which checks housing benefit claims against records held by other government bodies.
Cabinet member for Finance and Performance, Councillor Yvonne Johnson, said: ''It defies belief that someone who had already been convicted of benefit fraud would have the audacity to do it a second time. This sends a strong message to benefit cheats that we will catch them.
Far from being a victimless crime, benefit cheats are stealing from us all and I appeal to anyone who has any suspicions about someone they know to report it.''
The council will seek to recover all the stolen money from Bernard.
Anyone with any suspicions that someone is committing benefit fraud should report it to the council via the confidential fraud hotline 0800 328 6453 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
20 September 2011