Ministers have said they will use “all the powers of the law” to claw back taxpayers’ money stolen by benefits cheats.
The Department for Work and Pensions has published a rogues’ gallery of the worst convicted fraudsters who have been ordered to pay back hundreds of thousands of pounds.
In 2012-13, the department’s specialist Financial Investigation Unit obtained 271 confiscation orders worth £8.9m – a 50 per cent increase by value on the previous year.
Welfare Minister Lord Freud said: “These cases should serve as a warning to the cynical minority who see benefits as a way of unfairly lining their pockets at the taxpayer’s expense.
“You will face justice and we will use all the powers of the law to close down bank accounts, freeze assets and force the sale of properties to claw back the stolen money and any proceeds made from that stolen money.
“Those who refuse will face time behind bars and still have to pay up when they are out.”
The convicted fraudsters who have been ordered to pay money back under the Proceeds of Crime Act during 2012/13 included Alison Jacques, 55, of Leeds, who was told to repay £116,954, after being sentenced to 10 months in prison having pleaded guilty to claiming income support, incapacity benefit and council tax benefit while working full time in a call centre for British Gas.
Another high-value case involved a couple from Scotland who had to pay back nearly £1m after stealing £63,000.
Anthony Kearney of Glasgow, was ordered to pay £930,362 and Janet Kearney £13,003.
They fled to Spain after being charged with fraudulently claiming benefits and using stolen identities but were extradited back to Scotland.
Anthony Kearney was sentenced to two years in prison and Janet Kearney to 250 hours of community service.
Gladys Popoola, 51, of London, was ordered to pay back £304,079 after being jailed for claiming a variety of benefits totalling £207,975 while working.