A MARRIED woman who pretended to be single has been found guilty of fraudulently claiming nearly £20,000 in benefits.

Natasha Windiate, aged 24, had claimed Jobseeker’s Allowance, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit as a single person since November 2008.

The claims related to her current address at 31 Chedworth Drive, Worcester, and her previous addresses of 37 Randwick Drive and 6 Chedworth Close, which she had rented in the city.

Investigators found that Windiate had failed to declare that she was living together with her partner, Adam Windiate, at the same address.

He was working, while she was continuing to claim benefits.

When she was interviewed about the matter in October 2011 and February 2012 she denied they had been living together.

However, during a second interview, by which time her benefits claims had already been cancelled, she confirmed that they were married on 26 November 2011.

The investigation uncovered that Windiate had received overpayments of £7,647.67 in Jobseeker’s Allowance and £12,256.92 in Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit because of her fraudulent claims.

The case was heard at Worcester Magistrates Court on February 7 where Windiate pleaded guilty to the charges brought by the Worcester City Council.

In mitigation, her solicitor Sarah Brady from Lister Brady Solicitors advised the bench that Windiate was utterly ashamed of what had happened.

The court heard that Windiate accepted she had become financially intermingled at an early stage with Adam Windiate, and that she should have declared the change in her circumstances.

Magistrates were told that Windiate had had a difficult background in care, but was now in paid employment.

She has a six-month-old baby and suffers from anxiety and depression, the court was told.

Magistrates ordered Windiate to fully repay all the benefits to which she was not entitled and gave her a conditional discharge of 24 months. Prosecutors for the Council were awarded costs of £500.

Nick Jefferies, Head of Shared Services at Worcester City Council, said: “We consider benefit fraud to be a serious matter.

"People have a duty to notify us and report any change in circumstances when it comes to matters that might affect benefit payments, just as we have a duty to protect public funds.”

If you are claiming Housing or Council Tax Benefits and are unsure whether or not you are still entitled to receive them, contact Worcester City Council on 01905 722233 for advice.