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Man in court for council house fraud

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A fraudster obtained a council house in Dudley by failing to declare he already owned a home, a court heard.

Martin Christopher Sherwin was given a three-bedroom house in The Broadway, Norton, Stourbridge, by Dudley Council bosses.

But the 48-year-old failed to disclose that he already owned a home in Sandwell - also a former council house - which he had purchased under the Right to Buy scheme.

It would have ruled him out of being offered a property if council bosses had known. Sherwin, who was given the Stourbridge property in 2013, went on to apply to purchase it in November 2018 through Right to Buy.

He would have benefited from a discount of more than £60,000 if he had been successful, the court heard.

But the court heard the application highlighted some inconsistencies with data, and further checks confirmed Sherwin already owned a property in Sandwell.

The case against Sherwin, brought by Dudley Council, should have been dealt with via a live skype link with Wolverhampton Crown Court due to the coronavirus crisis on April 2. But due to technical problems, and the need for social distancing, it was dealt with over the phone.

He pleaded guilty to three offences of fraud and received a 20 month prison sentence, suspended for two years. Sherwin must also carry out 30 days of unpaid work and was ordered to pay £4,000 costs.

Councillor Laura Taylor, cabinet member for housing, said:

This was unacceptable behaviour from a man who already had a home and, by taking another one, deprived a family on the waiting list who really needed it.
It sends a strong message that we will not tolerate anyone trying to abuse the system to make financial gain.
Our housing fraud team is currently in the process of recovering possession of the home, which will then be made available to an applicant in need and eligible from our waiting list.

Residents can report people who they suspect may have or are committing housing fraud by calling  Dudley Council Plus on 0300 555 2345, the Fraud Hotline on 01384 814242 or email hotline@dudley.gov.uk.

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