A Medway Council benefits officer was caught by colleagues fraudulently claiming council tax discount for living alone after he posted on social media websites about his family. Married father-of-two Jonathan Lincoln, 30, came under the spotlight after he failed stringent I.D. and address checks for staff working in the benefits section of the council. Shocked colleagues discovered he not only illegally claimed a 25 per cent council tax discount for living as a single person, but had also turned a blind eye to his wife Ellen’s bogus income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit claims as well.

So they set out to investigate, carrying out surveillance on the address his wife was claiming from to prove Jonathan Lincoln also lived there. They even checked his bank and utility bill records as well as social media and other internet websites to bring him to book. During the investigation they discovered he repeatedly wrote on his open Facebook wall about holidays he took to Disneyland Paris and other places with Ellen and their children. And he even posted about the couple having rows, spending time together for their wedding anniversary and buying presents for each other. Further searches showed Jonathan Lincoln had posted on a camping forum website about weekends away with the family and had even made a family application using his council email account for the Medway Mile – an annual fun run held by Medway Council.

Jonathan Lincoln initially started working for Medway Council in 2006 as a customer services officer and made claims for a 25 per cent living alone discount on his council tax for two addresses in Gillingham – Davenport Avenue and then Gardiner Street. Three years later, in December 2009, he applied to move departments at the council and took up work as a trainee benefit assessor assessing people’s claims for council tax benefit and housing benefit. However, when he failed to provide documentation required under vetting procedures his colleagues noticed a discrepancy in his personal details held on council computers. And at this point they stepped in, stating he had told them he lived with his wife Ellen and his children. During the investigation that was launched social network sites such as Twitter were also searched.

In one open posting late at night in May 2011, Lincoln stated: “Ann Summers party has finished…now just trying to get rid of her chavy mate again so we can go to bed!!” In another note posted on Twitter again several months later, he referred to a Medway Council press release about a lady fined for dropping a cigarette stating “haha…that’s my landlady.” It was discovered the lady owned the Gardiner Street property he and his family were living in and a tenancy agreement held for the rental of the property was in the name of Jonathan Lincoln and his wife Ellen.
Benefit investigators also discovered Lincoln had – when claiming a council tax discount – emailed the council using an email address with the name capnjack in it.
Internet searches of the username capnjack showed various messages from him on a site called Magic Forum – dedicated to fans posting views on Disneyland Paris.
In one posting in April 2011, Jonathan Lincoln – writing under the name Captain Jack Sparrow – discussed moving to the world famous resort for work stating he will go alone if its short term or if it is long term he will ‘go alone until we can all relocate’.

Jonathan Lincoln was charged and later admitted in court making false representations to claim a single person discount on his council tax in April 2007 in relation to the Davenport Avenue address and a similar count for making a false claim in July 2009 for the Gardiner Street home. He also pleaded guilty to two counts of allowing or prompting his wife to falsely claim income support and housing benefit and council tax benefit between December 2010 and August 2011.
His wife Ellen, aged 29, also pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to notify a change in circumstances in relation to living with her husband, who was working, while she claimed income support and council tax benefit and housing benefit.
At Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday, 9 October, prosecutor Philip Sinclair said the charges related to £904.50 fraudulently claimed by Jonathan Lincoln for single person allowance for council tax and £5,616.07 in relation to claims for income support and housing and council tax benefit.

During this time, Mr Sinclair told the court that ‘various other pieces of evidence came to light during the course of the investigation’ that showed ‘the couple were living together’ and that Jonathan Lincoln was ‘essentially the bill payer for the property.” He added that the couple were now separated. In mitigation, Kerry Moore – defending Jonathan Lincoln – said his client started claiming single person allowance for council tax before he took up work with Medway Council’s benefit team. But he added: “He did not have the strength of character or the honesty to stop the claim when he started with Medway Council. He has let down himself, his family, those that employed him and all the taxpayers of this country.”
The judge, Recorder Joshua Swirsky, sentenced Jonathan Lincoln to a 16 week prison sentence suspended for one year, ordered him to carry out 150 hours community service and to pay £500 towards costs. He gave Ellen, a mother of two, a conditional discharge for 12 months.

Sentencing Jonathan Lincoln, recorder Mr Swirsky told him: “Your case is considerably aggravated. You breached the trust of your employers. The public would not be satisfied if the crown did not treat this offence as serious. ”Following the hearing Cllr Alan Jarrett, Medway Council’s Deputy Leader and Portfolio Holder for Finance, said: “All of Medway Council’s staff are expected to carry out their jobs with integrity and honesty and we will always take action against anyone, no matter who they are, if any form of wrong-doing is ever discovered. “What is so surprising about this case is that this member of staff was a benefits assessor who attempted to defraud Medway’s taxpayers by cheating the benefits system.

“It is a credit to his colleagues within the benefits section of the council that when they discovered what he was up to, they set about investigating him and making sure he was brought to justice. They were shocked that he could attempt to cheat money in this way while working alongside them and were determined to make sure he did not get away with it. “I am pleased that as soon as this came to light a full and swift investigation was carried out by council staff, that this man was dismissed from his job and that now he and his wife have been dealt with by the courts.”

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