Hurstpierpoint couple jailed for benefit fraud

A couple from Hurstpierpoint have been convicted of benefit fraud after dishonestly claiming over £60,000.

David Aston and Eugina Wallis of Willow Way, Hurstpierpoint fraudulently claimed £62,930 in overpaid benefits after providing false information to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Mid Sussex District Council.

The couple made separate claims for Income Support on the basis that they were single and living alone. However, an investigation by Mid Sussex District Council produced evidence that David Aston and Eugina Wallis were in fact married and living together in Hurstpierpoint.

Mr Aston also dishonestly claimed Housing Benefit and Council Tax benefit for a property in Bognor Regis, which he said he was living in with his carer. That property was occupied by his daughter Kelly Aston, 31, who was living in the property rent free.

On 3 December 2021, David Aston, Eugina Wallis and Kelly Aston pleaded guilty at Lewes Crown Court to 11 of the 19 indictments brought against them.

Judge Janet Waddicor said: “There is overwhelming evidence of dishonesty over a number of years. The amount of work by the investigators on this case is truly impressive.

“The amount of work that has gone into this investigation is astonishing. The degree of careful investigation was truly exceptional.”

Sentencing took place on 28 January 2022 and David Aston received 22 months in prison. Eugina Wallis was sentenced 36 weeks in prison and Kelly Aston received 12 months community service, comprising 100 hours work.

Councillor Ruth De Mierre, Cabinet Member for Customer Services said:

“The Council will always take firm action against the very small minority of benefit claimants who seek to cheat and be a drain on the wallets and purses of our law abiding Mid Sussex residents. Members of the public can help us catch these cheats by reporting suspected fraud anonymously via the Council’s website or the National Fraud Hotline 0800 854 440.”

A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman added: “We constantly review how we tackle benefit theft. We are committed to deterring those considering fraud; to detecting fraud when it does occur and to making sure those who commit benefit theft are brought to justice.”