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Crime Pembrokeshire West Wales

Pembrokeshire builder made over £16,000 in false benefits during lockdown court hears

A self-employed builder has been committed to Crown Court for sentence after being convicted of falsely claiming over £16,000 in Universal Credit.

Gordon Hardy began claiming the benefits a week after the first lockdown commenced in March 2020 despite owning his own residence plus two other properties, valued at £440,000.

“This was fraudulent from the outset, as that information hadn’t been relayed to the Department Of Work and Pensions,” Crown Prosecutor Sian Vaughan told Haverfordwest magistrates this week.

Ms Vaughan said the total sum claimed by Hardy amounted to £16,667.29.

“He failed to inform the DWP that he was the sole owner of two other properties valued at £125,000 and £315,000 respectively,” she said.

“When the application for Universal Credit was made, he said he was single, with no income nor capital assets.  He declared that he owned his own home but the ownership of the other two properties should have been disclosed as well, as he would not have been entitled to benefits.”

Hardy, of Dew Street, Haverfordwest, pleaded guilty to a charge of dishonestly making a false statement to obtain benefits on March 27, 2020.

He was legally represented in court by Mr Michael Kelleher.

“The offence took place during the Covid lockdown and naturally, because my client is a self-employed builder, he was unable to work, as his job involves going to people’s houses,” he said.

” He was in financial difficulties because he had no money coming in and made his first ever claim for benefits.  But this was all done over the telephone and, as a lack of concentration on his part, he failed to inform them about the properties.”

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Mr Kelleher added that one of the properties was derelict with the result that Hardy no longer pays council tax for it, while the other is occupied by his friend who pays no rent.

“So no money is coming to him for either of these two properties,” added Mr Kelleher.

He went on to say that a payment plan is now in place enabling Hardy to pay the overpayments back in instalments.

After listening to the evidence, magistrates stated they were ‘not in a position to sentence’ the defendant.

As a result sentencing will now take place in Swansea Crown Court on April 25.  Gordon Hardy was granted unconditional bail.