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Mum-of-three from Accrington in £100,000 benefits fraud
10:37pm Friday 1st March 2013 in News
A MOTHER-of-three who illegally claimed nearly £100,000 in benefits during a seven-year scam has been jailed.
Dawn Wood, 35, even claimed that her long-term partner Robert Fletcher was a previous tenant at her terraced home when questioned by benefits officials, Burnley Crown Court was told.
His name had featured on a tenancy agreement and Wood had ‘the opportunity to come clean’ about the fraud in 2004, the court heard.
But she denied any knowledge of him and continued to claim income support until 2011, when she was exposed by an anonymous tip-off to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
Wood, of Westwood Street, Accrington, admitted three offences of failing to notify a change in circumstances for claiming benefits.
Jailing her for six month, Recorder Anthony Cross QC said: “This was for a protracted period of time, lasting seven years and a total of nearly £100,000 was obtained.”
Judith McCullough, prosecuting, said Wood began claiming benefits in 1995 as a single mother with three dependent children.
But a complaint was made to the DWP that she was living with Mr Fletcher and undercover surveillance was carried out between September and October 2010.
Fletcher, who worked for Valley Windows and Conservatories in Nelson, was seen leaving the home in the morning and returning each evening.
Further checks of households bills showed that they were all in Mr Fletcher’s name. He also gave the Accrington address as his home to his employers.
The court heard that while she claimed income support, resulting in a £65,970 loss to the DWP, this also entitled her to council and housing tax benefits, totalling more than £33,200.
Daniel Prowse, defending, said his client was a mother of three sons, aged 15, 11 and eight.
“It is apparent that not only has she not been in trouble in the past but she is in fact a woman who is extremely highly thought of by people she knows and comes into contact with,” said Mr Prowse.
“It is clear that she is described as an excellent mother who is dedicated to her children. It is also apparent that her main concern in relation to a sentence of immediate custody is more to do with the effect it would have on her children than it would on her.”
Wood had said that there were periods when she had split up with Mr Fletcher, and others when he was not working, said Mr Prowse.
But he added that it was difficult to determine exact dates when these changes may have occurred.
The court heard that Wood would nominally have been entitled to claim around £40,000 in various benefits over the period if she had outlined her living arrangements.