Online trader caught for benefit fraud

AN online trader from Winchelsea Beach who falsely claimed more than £3,000 in benefits while selling items on eBay has been handed a community sentence.

James Myatt, of Morlais Place, Winchelsea Beach, was convicted of failing to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances in a hearing at Eastbourne Magistrates’ Court.

Myatt, who began claiming Council Tax Benefit in 2003, was caught after a 16-month investigation determined he had become self-employed in 2005, buying and selling goods on the internet auction website.

The 45-year-old, who admitted failing to notify Rother District Council of a change in his circumstances, was ordered to carry out 200 hours’ unpaid work and to pay the council £900 in costs.

Cllr Robin Patten, district council cabinet member for finance and value for money, said: “If someone who is claiming benefits begins working, whether for an employer or for themselves, they must notify us as soon as possible.

“This case highlights the fact that the internet is no hiding place for benefits cheats and in terms of eligibility, making money on eBay is no different to making money in any other way.

“People who fraudulently claim benefits are not just cheating the system, they’re cheating their fellow citizens, who are the ones who ultimately have to foot the bill.

“We are determined to actively pursue and bring to court possible offenders who continue to deliberately cheat the benefits system.”

People in receipt of housing or council tax benefit must notify the council if their circumstances, or those of anyone in their household, change.

Changes, including starting or changing jobs, changes in receipt of other benefits or someone moving into or leaving the household, should be notified as soon as possible and must be within one calendar month of the change. People can report benefit fraud anonymously by calling the hotline on 01424 451082.