A WOMAN who fraudulently claimed nearly £30,000 in benefits has been given a suspended prison sentence.

Julie Fox, aged 47, of Maytree Estate, Lower Moor, near Pershore, pleaded guilty to claiming a number of benefits despite having received inheritance payments totalling £70,337.

A joint investigation between Wychavon District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions revealed Fox had falsely completed application forms not disclosing she had savings over the allowed amount of £16,000.

Fox received inheritance of £20,619 on February 17, 2008 and £49,718 on September 16, 2008 and since getting the money was paid income support of £3,319.49, job seekers allowance of £4,916.95, employment support allowance of £2,596.56, housing benefit of £13,889.08 and council tax benefit of £3,566.80, totalling £28,288.88.

When she appeared in Worcester Magistrates court on February 6 her solicitor said she had struggled to cope with the death of her parents, had previously been in a long-term abusive relationship, and had become dependent on alcohol as a result of suffering from anxiety and depression.

Summing up the case District Judge Nigel Cadbury said the overpayment was very substantial and the inheritance amount was a sum some would only dream about.

He added this was an extremely serious matter and as she had continued to claim benefits this was real greed, for which she would usually be imprisoned.

Fox was sentenced to three months in prison for the housing and council tax benefit charges, and two months for the other three charges to run concurrently. The sentences were suspended for 18 months.

She was also ordered to repay the full amount, undertake a supervision order and to attend the freedom programme at the Asha Women’s Centre in Worcester.