A civil servant siphoned off nearly £2,000 from people’s benefits after struggling to meet the payments of his pay-day loan.
Anthony Osborne was paying £700 from his monthly salary to meet the “exorbitant” interest rates of his loan, Sunderland magistrates were told.
He turned to crime and took £1,932 in just five weeks after realising he could alter bank details on customers’ electronic records.
But he was caught after two claimants complained they had not received their benefits and an internal audit was carried out.
Osborne, 42, was arrested and pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position before Sunderland Magistrates’ Court in June.
At a sentencing hearing this week, Osborne blamed mounting debts and depression for the deception, described in court as being totally out of character for a man who had never been in trouble with the law.
Osborne, who gave his address in court as Wark Street, Chester-le-Street, carried out the fraud at Job Centre Plus in Sunderland, where he had worked for seven years.
Prosecutor John McGlone said over five weeks from December 6, the benefits processor helped himself to the cash, which was paid into two bank accounts he had access to.
Chris Wilson, defending, said Osborne was struggling to keep up with the demands from his loan.
“It was not frivolous spending,” he said, “but more a case of making ends meet.”
“Vulnerabilities in the system were identified by him and effectively it was to his benefit. The actions of Mr Osborne on this occasion were completely out of character.
“He has never come under the spotlight of the police or his employment.
“He is embarrassed and ashamed and wishes he could wind the clock back.
“Against the background of depression and the downward spiral he was in, he made an erroneous decision.”
Mr Wilson added that Osborne had moved out from the home he shared with his partner of five years, after they rowed over the court case and he was living at the tattoo removal business in Chester-le-Street which he had set up.
“His financial situation is now stable because of this. He has built up a customer base and it seems he will be successful, going forward,” he added.
Chairman Peter Devere ordered Osborne to serve a 12-month community order and to repay the stolen money back to the Department for Work and Pensions.
> Now, if the defendant had been from the other side of the counter – a claimant – we’d be getting headlines about Benefit Cheats and Taxpayer’s Money.
It’s still benefits fraud, and it’s still taxpayer’s money, but somehow it doesn’t seem to generate the same lurid headlines.
In fact its far worse, because he was in a position of responsibility and in receipt of a wage. And he stole from the worst off in society.
Which to my mind makes him the worst kind of benefits cheat.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 21 Aug 2014