A woman cheated the benefits system out of more than £24,000 by falsely claiming to be a lone parent on a low income.
But Paula Mullock, 29, received a suspended prison sentence and was ordered to do community work after her fraud was uncovered by investigators from Cheshire East Council’s benefit investigations team and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Mullock, of Royce Close, Crewe, admitted four charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances that she knew would affect her entitlement to Housing Benefit, Council Tax Benefit and Income Support.
Magistrates sitting at South and East Cheshire Magistrates Court in Crewe on March 30 heard that an investigation into Mullock’s claim found that her partner had joined the household in November 2010 and had been supporting her and the family financially.
Despite this, she continued her claim as a lone parent for another three years and six months by providing false statements to the DWP.
As a result, Mullock received £24,694.38 in benefits that she was not entitled to.
Magistrates sentenced her to 18 weeks imprisonment suspended for 12 months and 100 hours unpaid work for the community. She was also ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £80 and costs of £85.
Steph Cordon, Cheshire East Council’s Head of Communities, said: “It is a big mistake for fraudsters to think they can get away with claiming benefits they are not entitled to.
“They risk being prosecuted and ending up with a criminal conviction for a serious offence of dishonesty.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy towards benefit fraud because we are determined to ensure that the benefits system works for people who really need help.”
Residents can report people they suspect of benefit fraud by calling free on the confidential fraud hotline number 0800 389 2787. There is no need to give a name and calls are treated in the strictest confidence.
Alternatively, suspected fraud can be reported through the Council’s website at www.cheshireeast.gov.uk