Daily Express

Benefit-cheat gran owned luxury Spanish villa

- By Chris Riches

A SUN-seeker was unmasked as a benefit cheat after investigat­ors proved she owned a Spanish villa... because she named it after herself.

The Department of Work and Pensions launched a probe into the assets of Rena Griffiths, 58, after she claimed taxpayer-funded handouts for being unfit to work.

Bury magistrate­s heard that the DWP found not only did she own four properties but one of them was a villa near Malaga in Spain. And when they investigat­ed further, they found the stunning home in Pizarra was named “Villa Rena”.

Griffiths admitted five counts of benefit fraud and narrowly avoided a jail term, receiving a 12-week suspended sentence instead.

Magistrate­s heard how she had admitted claiming exactly £14,000 in benefits despite holding assets of more than £130,000 and owning three properties. Between October 2010 and April 2013, she claimed employment support allowance, jobseekers’ allowance and council tax benefit because she was unfit to work.

When claiming the benefits the grandmothe­r, from Whitefield, in Greater Manchester, signed forms to say that she had no income.

She also declared that she had savings of less than £16,000 and the only property she owned was the one she lived in. However, magistrate­s heard that the DWP received a tip-off that this might not be true and immediatel­y launched an investigat­ion.

The probe found that at the time she was claiming three benefits, Griffiths in fact held capital in excess of £130,000 and she also owned three other properties – two in the UK and one in Spain.

However, the grandmothe­r-of-three failed to declare any of these. In all, she fraudulent­ly claimed £12,243 from the DWP and £1,757 from Bury Council over the course of three-and-a-half years.

Magistrate­s told her the offences were “serious because the figure of overpaymen­t had been high” and she had committed it “over a long period of time”.

Griffiths was told she must repay the money.

She was also ordered to pay £85 court costs.

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