A woman who was found guilty of fraud by false representation after she applied to buy a Solihull Council property has been sentenced.
Donna Pring, 50, from Tamworth, received an 18 month custodial sentence suspended for two years on Thursday 13 December at Birmingham Crown Court. She was also ordered to pay £2,500 court costs and complete 80 hours community service.
Ms Pring was a Solihull Community Housing tenant and applied to purchase the property through the Right to Buy scheme in January 2016. However, an investigation by Solihull Council’s Fraud Team discovered she was not living in the property at the time.
The team identified Ms Pring held a private tenancy in Tamworth at the time of the application and she had signed a tenancy agreement to this effect, declaring her previous address as a property in Birmingham.
Further checks discovered that even though Ms Pring’s tenancy started with Solihull Community Housing in 2002, she took up a private tenancy in a property in Birmingham from 2006 with her partner and daughter. In addition, she claimed housing benefit and council tax benefit for the Birmingham address, when she was a Solihull Council tenant.
Through the investigation the Fraud Team learnt that Ms Pring’s son and his family were living in the Solihull Council property. If the investigation had not been carried out, Ms Pring would have received a discount for the Right to Buy application of approximately £44,000.
On handing out her sentence Judge Creed commented that Ms Pring knew what she was doing when she attempted to deceive the authority. He said she moved her bank account to her tenancy address six months prior to making the application to make it look as though she was living at the Solihull address, when in fact she had taken up a private tenancy in Tamworth. He further added that Ms Pring escaped a custodial sentence because of her value to society as working as a nurse and her family ties.
Councillor Robert Hulland, Cabinet Member for Resources & Delivering Value, said: “We are pleased with the outcome of this investigation and the punishment Ms Pring has been given.
“As the judge commented, she set out to deceive the Council and deny families in need from being given the opportunity to have a home.
“Fraud is not tolerated in Solihull and I hope this case sends out a strong message to people that we will pursue those who choose to cheat the system.”
Fiona Hughes, Chief Executive for Solihull Community Housing, added: “Housing fraud in any form is a very serious offence and those engaged in it can expect to pay a high price when detected.”
If residents suspect someone is committing housing tenancy fraud please report it to the Council. Visit www.solihull.gov.uk/fraud and complete an online form. Alternatively email or call 0800 028 8535.