The patient and tenacious work by Epping Forest District Council fraud investigators was featured in the BBC TV programme Saints and Scroungers, aired on Wednesday 26 January 2011.
A Council fraud investigator said This is disgusting, it’s pure greed on the biggest case of fraud Epping Forest District Council had ever uncovered.
For Bob Palmer, Director of Finance and ICT, and the fraud investigators involved, being filmed by the BBC was not part of their normal working day but all were keen to take part and highlight the extraordinary level of fraud in this case.
The investigations began after an Off-duty fraud investigator was house hunting in Epping. He told colleagues he had viewed the property and talked with the agent, alarm bells started ringing when colleagues realised they had visited the Martins before and details given were different.
Following months of investigations and working closely with agencies including the Department for Work and Pensions and the Police, scroungers Mr and Mrs Martin pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court in the face of overwhelming evidence.
Robert Martin received a two and a half year prison sentence for making false claims of £130,000 for housing benefit and council tax benefit While claiming income support. His wife Samantha Martin received a 12 month suspended sentence and 150 hours of community service.
Bob Palmer said: Well done to all the benefit fraud team who all acted with the greatest integrity and professionalism ensuring the conviction of these scroungers. It is not a victimless crime, this money should be spent on improving services for people in real need.
He continued: What we have to hope is that anybody out there who is currently committing a fraud sees what has happened, and that is a significant deterrent to them.