02:22PM, Wednesday 08 June 2016
An elderly woman from Slough has been given a suspended prison sentence and ordered to pay almost £80,000 after she was caught trying to buy her council house with undeclared savings.
Raj Ralhan, of Turton Way, pleaded guilty to three offences of fraud in February.
The 79-year-old, who had been claiming benefits for 13 years, tried to buy her council house under the Right to Buy scheme using up to £36,000 of savings she had not previously declared.
At a prosecution hearing at Reading Crown Court on Friday, Ralhan was sentenced to six weeks for each count, to run concurrently, suspended for one year.
She was ordered to pay £59,422.02 to Slough Borough Council (SBC) and £20,318.71 to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) within three months, and to pay costs of £3,000.
During the hearing in February, the court heard how Ralhan had started claiming benefits in 2000 before applying to buy her property in 2013.
When questioned on where the money was coming from to buy the property, Ralhan gave details of savings.
This alerted SBC as the savings were not compatible with the amount of benefits she was claiming and had never been declared in any of the benefit applications or subsequent follow ups.
Joseph Holmes, assistant director of finance at SBC, said: “Mrs Ralhan continuously lied to the council and the DWP for more than a decade, hiding the savings from us before having the audacity to try and buy a property from the very people she was defrauding.
“Through our investigation and subsequent confiscation order, we have shown this fraud does not pay in the end and we will continually strive to recover the money owed to us.”
If Ralhan does not return the money within the court-ordered timescale she could be sent to prison for a default term of 12 months.
Closures are planned on the M4 between Langley and the M25 this weekend for smart motorway works.