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The Independent Online
The Benefits Agency was defrauded of more than pounds 400,000 by its own staff in cases dealt with in the past year, it was revealed last night. Ten officers were dismissed for frauds including some where agency staff were "living together as husband and wife" with benefit customers, and in more serious cases a handful of staff were sent to jail.

Eleven cases of major internal fraud were listed by Oliver Heald, Under- Secretary for Social Security, in a written Commons answer to the Labour MP Frank Field. All involved staff from local benefit offices prosecuted between April 1995 and March this year and offences included misappropriating Giro cheques.

The largest amount defrauded was pounds 153,467 at the South Downs district office, resulting in an officer being sentenced to 18 months imprisonment. A Birkenhead district officer was sentenced to two and a half years imprisonment for defrauding the agency of pounds 15,000 and a Sefton officer given three years for theft in a case involving seven outside accomplices and an amount of pounds 20,495.