Disgraced couple have assets seized

01/04/2010

A County Durham couple who obtained hundreds of thousands of pounds by deception have had their assets seized.

Under the Proceeds of Crime Act, Paul and Julie Cruttenden from Aycliffe Village near Darlington have been ordered to pay back more than £500,000 after falsely obtaining benefit payments, bank loans, credit cards and mortgage advances.

The order against the Cruttendens, who were sentenced to serve two year jail sentences, has been successfully obtained by Durham CPS.

Steven Orange, Head of South Durham CPS who led the seizure order said: "The Cruttendens were defrauding the taxpayer, obtaining benefit payments they weren't entitled to. They were using false names, identifies and employment details to also obtain credit cards and bank loans. All this funded a lavish lifestyle and holidays all over the world.

"Mr Cruttenden even secured a mortgage of £142,500 by claiming that he was a property developer with a substantial income, to buy a house. The house was later sold for a £200,000 profit.

The Proceeds of Crime Act sends out a powerful message that crime doesn't pay.  Our prosecution team has worked hard to ensure not only that the Cruttendens were convicted of their crimes, but that their assets were seized and in this case, the taxpayer compensated."

The POCA order follows a long running investigation involving the CPS, Durham Police and the Regional Asset Recovery Team. Inquires were made in Thailand, with restraining orders imposed on assets in Jersey and this country.

Over an eight year period, the couple fraudulently obtained council tax benefit, housing benefit and income support from Durham County Council and the Department of Work and Pensions worth £75,000. In addition, they falsely obtained £613,000 from credit cards and loans.

The couple were both jailed at Newcastle Crown Court in August 2009, convicted of conspiracy to obtain benefit payments, obtaining services by deception, and obtaining money transfers by deception.  Mr Cruttenden also admitted money laundering.

Mr Cruttenden, 39, must pay back £256,949.83. £249,000 must be handed over within 28 days, the rest within 6 months. Failure to do this will lead to a further 12 months in prison.

His 49 year old wife has been told to payback £250,000. She must hand over £62,000 within 28 days and the rest within a year. She faces an additional 2 years behind bars if she fails to comply.

Some of the money retrieved will be used to compensate Durham County Council and the Department of Work and Pensions.