Published: 00:01, 23 June 2014
A Canterbury couple squirrelled away a £50,000 windfall... and then lied to claim nearly £24,000 in benefits.
Now Owen and Kathleen Linkins have been told they have two weeks to stump up the cash out of their secret inheritance.
The pair of fraudsters later claimed they had “forgotten” about the money that they received in 2007 before they began claiming state handouts.
Owen Linkins, 53, of Seymour Place, claimed employment benefits for two years after saying he had had just £384 in their bank account.
Later his wife Kathleen, who appeared at Canterbury Crown Court in a wheelchair, began pocketing more benefits.
They were due for trial in April but then entered guilty pleas to the fraud charges – Owen for claiming £13,600 and his wife £10,380.
But Judge Simon James halted the sentencing hearing after being told that not a penny of the money had yet been returned.
He said: “As I understand it, their offer of repayment forms a substantial part of their mitigation and I am rather surprised to find that none of the money has been repaid.
“It was obviously obtained fraudulently and they were not entitled to it and nor should they have the benefit of it.”
Philip Rowley, defending Mrs Linkins, said: “Having entered their pleas at the magistrates court, an offer was made to make immediate repayment, and what we have been waiting for is where it should be paid.
“They are in a position to make a repayment effectively immediately.”
He asked for a two-week adjournment for the Linkins to hand back the money once the DWP had provided a banking address.
The judge said: “It is not a case that the defendants can buy themselves out of their responsibilities, but bearing in mind they have the money in their bank account it seems to me it shouldn’t remain there.
“If it were repaid that would be an evidence of their remorse, but I am not making any promises about what the sentences will be."
“As I understand it, their offer of repayment forms a substantial part of their mitigation and I am rather surprised to find that none of the money has been repaid" - Judge Simon James
Prosecutor James Ross told the court: “These were claims which were dishonest from the start. Mr Linkins made a claim for employment and support allowance in March 2009.
“He was asked to certify if he had more than £6,000 in his account. He said his capital was in the region of £384, but in reality the capital was in the region of nearer £60,000.
"He then claimed for 74 weeks until March 2011.
“Mrs Linkins, who had received the inheritance in 2007, then began claiming a week later.
"She said the total amount of savings the couple had was £700. So as soon as one claim ended the other was started", he added.
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