In The Crown Court at Basildon
Castle Point Borough Council has successfully prosecuted Ms Natalie Wagstaff for a Right to Buy Fraud which was carried out against the Council. On 1 June 2020, Natalie Wagstaff pleaded guilty to committing fraud by false representation contrary to sections 1 and 2 of the Fraud Act 2006 and fraud by failing to disclose information contrary to sections 1 and 3 of the Fraud Act 2006.
Both charges concern a tenancy held by the defendant at 205 Link Road, Canvey Island, Essex, SS8 9SP. The defendant completed the ‘Right To Buy’ (“RTB”) form and made false representations claiming that she still resided there when she did not. A tenant applying for a ‘RTB’ is under a legal duty to disclose certain information. This information enables the Council to assess whether the tenant is eligible to buy their Council home and calculate the discount to which the tenant is or may be entitled. Had the application been genuine the discount on the purchase price would have been £80,000. By failing to disclose that she had ceased to occupy the property as her main or only home Ms Wagstaff failed in her legal duty. Ms Wagstaff accepts that she sublet the property during the period 1 January 2015 to 30 June 2019.
The loss to Castle Point Council is calculated as the cost to the Council of accommodating a household in temporary accommodation who could have been allocated 205 Link Road. Two-bedroomed properties are in high demand and the average waiting time for a household living in temporary accommodation is 12-months. The loss to the Council for the indictment period of 4 years, 5 months and 29 days is £46,578.86 and together with the ‘RTB’ discount which would have been valued at £80,000, the total value of the fraud was £126,578.86.
Ms Wagstaff’s appeared at Basildon Crown Court on Friday 17 July 2020 when she was sentenced to two years imprisonment suspended for two years with a requirement to undertake 20 Rehabilitation Activity Requirement days and complete 100 hours unpaid work. All financial orders were adjourned to another date when Ms Wagstaff faces confiscation proceedings to try and recover the losses caused to the Council.
Councillor Beverley Egan Cabinet Member responsible for Place and Housing commented that: “This case sends a clear message to any person who thinks that they can commit fraud against the Council that they will be caught and that the Council will take prosecution action against them resulting in possible imprisonment, unpaid work and any other penalty imposed by the Court and that we will seek to recover the full costs from the guilty party.”