A WOMAN who forged a tenancy agreement to obtain a reduction in her council tax has been given a suspended prison sentence.

City of York Council said Joanne Smith, 39, previously of Howden Lane, Crockey Hill, near York, provided the authority with three forged private tenancy agreements for properties within the York area between 2017 and 2018.

“The agreements stated that she was the sole tenant at each property, when in fact she had an additional adult living with her,” said a spokeswoman.

“This meant she was not entitled to £1,202.43 council tax reduction nor the £618.34 single person discount that she claimed.

“An investigation into the authenticity of these tenancy agreements was conducted by Veritau, the council’s fraud investigation service.”

She said Veritau was notified over concerns that the documents Smith had provided were false and an attempt to obtain a council tax reduction.

Interviewed under caution by Veritau officers, she admitted to forging one of the tenancy agreements, and that she had provided it to the council to obtain a reduction to her council tax.

She pleaded guilty to one charge of fraud and six of forgery and counterfeiting at York Magistrates Court last month and was sentenced on August 20 to a 14-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, and 20 days of rehabilitation activity.

She was also ordered to repay £1,820.77- the full amount of council tax reduction and single person discount - and to pay a victim surcharge of £115.

The court was told in mitigation that she and her children had health issues and she had suffered a family bereavement in 2017.

Cllr Nigel Ayre, executive member for finance at the council, said the case of fraud against the authority was made all the more serious by involving forged documents. “The actions in this case were an attempt to defraud the public purse.”

He urged anyone with information on suspected fraudulent activity to phone 0800 9179 247 or email fraud@york.gov.uk.