Council tenant given two year prison sentence after admitting to fraud charges

Swindon Borough Council has successfully prosecuted a tenant who over a number of years deceived the Borough over his living arrangements.

Published: Tuesday, 19th March 2019
Bristow

John Bristow was sentenced at Swindon Crown Court on Friday (15 March) after pleading guilty to fraud. It followed a detailed investigation by the Council’s in-house fraud team.

He obtained a Council property by providing false information and fraudulently claimed to be living at different addresses.

In October 2005, the Council granted Mr Bristow a tenancy for a property at Imber Walk, Penhill, as his tenancy at a house in Abbey View Road was due to end the following month.

But in June 2016, the Council began an investigation into an allegation that Mr Bristow was subletting the property on Imber Walk and living elsewhere.

The investigation found that between October 2005 and May 2017, Mr Bristow dishonestly obtained accommodation at Imber Walk by falsely claiming that he had lived at Abbey View Road since August 2003 when he in fact had a tenancy for, and had been living at, The Bakers Arms, Beechcroft Road, since 1 April 2005.

Had the Council known that Mr Bristow had the tenancy for The Bakers Arms, which included residential accommodation, he would not have been permitted to retain his tenancy at Abbey View Road, and would not have been granted the new tenancy at Imber Walk.

Between November 2011 and October 2017, Mr Bristow, while living at The Bakers Arms, sublet Imber Walk and the new tenant agreed to pay Mr Bristow £400 every four weeks.

Mr Bristow told the tenant to use a different address, on Lacock Avenue, if anyone asked where she lived or when corresponding with the Council.

Mr Bristow never stayed at the property while he was subletting it and the tenant paid him £400 rent every four weeks for the entire period she lived there.

It is estimated that Mr Bristow has caused a loss to the Council of more than £237,000 by obtaining and retaining social housing to which he was not entitled and which he did not need. This is based on the cost of providing a family with homeless accommodation over the period the fraud took place.

Police arrested Mr Bristow on suspicion of fraud in May 2017 and at Swindon Crown Court on Friday (15 March) he was handed a two year prison sentence.

Councillor Cathy Martyn, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Public Safety, said: “I welcome today’s judgement and hope it sends out a strong warning that this sort of behaviour will not be tolerated.

“The welfare of our tenants is a top priority for us. We will not allow people to take advantage and abuse the system in this way. Mr Bristow’s actions cost the Council almost a quarter of a million pounds and he took advantage of other people who were in actual need of a home by denying them that opportunity, preventing them from accessing housing to which they were entitled.

“We work closely with the police and I can say with confidence that people engaging in fraudulent activity will always be caught in the end.”

If you are concerned or have suspicions that Council houses are being sublet, misused or not lived in, please contact the Council’s Fraud Team on 01793 464690 or reportfraud@swindon.gov.uk. Also, the Corporate Fraud page on the Council’s website allows people to report suspected fraud online.

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