A woman who sold on a new fridge-freezer given to her through hardship funds from Southend Council has been convicted of fraud.
Paige Frost-McCarther, 21, of Blyth Avenue, Shoebury, appeared before Basildon Magistrates' Court last Tuesday (June 28) where she admitted to one count of fraud by false representation.
The court was told how in October 2020, Frost-McCarther contacted Southend Council asking for help from the Essential Living Fund.
The fund provides support to those in emergencies or unforeseen crisis and this can help towards general living expenses, including clothing, white goods and furniture.
Frost-McCarther said she needed a fridge freezer, bed and furniture.
As a result, she received a new fridge freezer worth £229.95 delivered straight to her home address.
Just six days later a report was made to the council’s counter fraud and investigation team, to say the same fridge freezer was for sale on a local Facebook page for £100.
They investigated but say Frost-McCarther failed to respond to any attempts to contact her, including a home visit to retrieve the fridge freezer.
She also failed to turn up to an interview at the council to discuss what had happened and explain why what she had done was expressly forbidden in the terms of the fund’s agreement.
Frost-McCarther has been ordered not to commit any further offences within the next 12 months and told to pay a total of £1,872 in costs and fines.
Stephen George, leader of Southend Council, said; “The essential living fund is for the vulnerable and those in real need of financial support.
“The fund is limited and so it is vital that the fund is accessed and used correctly.
“Any reports of fraud or economic crime against the council are treated extremely seriously, and where we receive a credible report we will follow through to get a resolution and make sure taxpayers’ money is spent correctly.
“It is incredibly difficult when someone won’t speak with us, for us to truly understand what has happened and why.
“In other cases we have managed to avoid the courts by coming to alternative agreements, but when the person who has signed an agreement with us then refuses to engage and negotiate with us, we have little choice but to pursue recovery of the money or goods through the legal process.”