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Benefits cheat claimed more than £30k
11:30am Thursday 11th October 2012 in News
A Worcester woman claimed nearly £31,000 in state benefits after failing to declare that she and her estranged husband had got back together.
At first, Carole Howard made a legitimate claim for income support and housing and council tax benefits as a lone parent when the couple split up in 2005.
But two years later Howard’s husband John began living with her again at her home in Martindale Close, Warndon, and he had a full-time job, said Adam Western, prosecuting at Worcester Crown Court.
Over a two-year period Howard fraudulently clai-med benefits totalling £30,981 after failing to notify Worcester City Council and the Department of Work and Pensions about a change of circumstances.
The 56-year-old pleaded guilty to two counts of benefit fraud and was sentenced to 16 weeks’ jail, suspended for two years.
She must also keep to an electronically monitored overnight curfew for three months and be supervised by the probation service for two years.
Judge John Cavell said Howard had buried her head in the sand instead of revealing the co-habitation. But he said it was plain from letters written to the court that otherwise she was an honest and caring woman whom others looked up to.
Howard, who had paid back £559 through deductions to her disabled living allowance, had racked up debts through a 20-year addiction to slot machines, said Michael Aspinall, defending.
Her finances were in a chaotic state and she foolishly thought that by declaring her change of circumstances she would lose all her entitlements.
She suffered from osteoarthritis, walked with two sticks and relied on her husband – who was stricken with pulmonary disease – to do the housework.
Mr Aspinall said she had brought up her grand-daughter since the age of two and she was planning to go to university.
She also provided support for her 81-year-old mother whom she saw every day.
“There was no high living and she has shown genuine remorse,” said Mr Aspinall.
“She is in considerable pain and is too young to have a knee replacement. Custody would have had a catastrophic effect on her and on others.”