A Dunmurry couple who both claimed benefits whilst occupying managerial posts in two local companies have been given suspended sentences.
Michael Rennick, 56, and his 52-year old wife Brenda - who Judge Gordon Kerr said “acted together” - were each handed suspended jail terms for benefit fraud amounting to around £30,000.
Belfast Crown Court heard that during the time they made false declarations to the Social Security Agency, Michael Rennick was registered as the company secretary of Lagmore Securities Limited, whilst Brenda Rennick was the company director of BR Pets Limited, trading as Mick’s Pet Food.
The court heard there was no evidence that the couple, from Mount Eagles Crescent, lived a lavish lifestyle.
Michael Rennick pleaded guilty to one charge of failing to declare a change in circumstances that would affect his Income Support between September 2007 and September 2008. He also admitted two counts of making a false declaration with a view to obtaining Income Support. He made a false declaration in September 2008 and again on April 2010.
His wife admitted one count of failing to notify the Social Security Agency of a change of circumstances that would affect her Carer’s Allowance between September 2007 and March 2008.
Crown prosecutor Gareth Purvis said Michael Rennick’s offending occurred over a five-year period and amounted to a total of £20,474.35 paid in Income Support, while his wife’s offending lasted for three years, during which she was paid £9,837 in Carer’s Allowance.
Mr Purvis said that the Rennicks were called in for interview following an investigation carried out by the Social Security Agency. Michael Rennick attended two interviews in 2013, whilst his wife refused to attend interview on three separate occasions.
During interview, it was put to Michael Rennick that both he and his wife were involved in two separate companies between September 2007 and May 2011.
Mr Purvis also told the court that Michael Rennick was making repayments of £74 a month which is being deduced from his current benefits.
Defence barrister Luke Curran, representing Michael Rennick, said his client’s offending started off with a genuine claim.
Mr Curran said his client cooperated and is making repayments. Judge Kerr spoke of the “long term nature of the offending”.
He handed Michael Rennick a 12-month sentence, with a nine-month sentence handed to his wife.
These were suspended for two years.