Benefit cheat illegally claimed nearly £7,000

Money
Money

A welfare fraudster who wrongly claimed nearly £7,000 in housing benefits and Income Support is being forced to pay the money back.

Samantha Donnelly, 27, of Whitehead Street, Staveley, has also been ordered to pay an additional £526 in fines, costs and charges, according to Chesterfield magistrates’ court.

Prosecuting solicitor Becky Allsop told the court hearing on Tuesday, May 10, how Donnelly had illegally claimed the money between March, 2014, and February, 2015, as a single person after she had failed to declare that she was living with a man as husband and wife.

Mrs Allsop said: “She was claiming Income Support and housing benefit that she was not entitled to with an over-payment of £6,954.29.

“She claimed in an initial form that she was a lone parent and was separated and benefits were paid into a Lloyds TSB bank account.

“Subsequently, the declaration was found to be false and she had failed to notify the authorities of a change in circumstances in that she was living back together with a man.”

The court heard how an investigation established the man in question had links to her address through employment and vehicle details.

Mrs Allsop added: “After an initial denial she admitted the offences and that she had knowingly failed to inform the authorities of her full circumstances.”

Donnelly pleaded guilty to failing to notify Chesterfield Borough Council of a change in circumstances affecting housing benefit and to failing to inform the Department for Work and Pensions of a change affecting Income Support.

Defence solicitor Denny Lau said: “The two parties had separated and at one point they had moved back in with each other but Ms Donnelly didn’t know how long he was going to stay.

“So she didn’t declare it because if the relationship had not continued she would have been facing a six-week suspension to access benefits with children and no income.

“By the time she thought the relationship was back on track she thought she would get in trouble and she put her head in the sand.”

Mr Lau added that Donnelly has begun paying the benefits back and has expressed remorse.

Magistrates warned the mother-of-three that if she had continued to illegally claim benefits she could have been given a custodial sentence.

However, they fined her £420 and ordered her to pay £85 costs and a £21 victim surcharge.

Magistrates also told Donnelly, who works as a barmaid, that the length of time it will take to pay back benefits will also serve as a reminder about what she had done.