BOLSOVER: Shameful scrounger escapes jail after swindling £88,000 from taxpayers

Andrea Smith. Picture by Rebecca Havercroft.
Andrea Smith. Picture by Rebecca Havercroft.
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This is the shameful face of a benefits scrounger who swindled taxpayers out of almost £90,000.

Andrea Smith wept in the dock as she was sentenced for illegally claiming £88,000 over a nine-year period.

Derby Crown Court heard Smith scammed the system as “money was always tight” in her household.

The mum-of-three narrowly escaped prison – but she has been ordered to repay the money and do 150 hours’ work.

Smith, 40, of New Bolsover, wrongly claimed the “staggering” sum as a lone parent when in fact her employed husband had been living with her at her address, Derby Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

She had falsely claimed the income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit and failed to declare her true circumstances between September 2003 and October 2012.

Joe Harvey, mitigating, said: “There were always money difficulties within the family.

“Even though Mr Smith had a job, money was always tight because he had a gambling addiction.

“The public is quite rightly entitled to be outraged.”

Smith wiped away tears as the judge, Recorder Marcus Tregilgas-Davey, blasted her “dishonesty” and sentenced her to a six-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, as well as 150 hours’ unpaid work.

He said: “Your dishonesty gives legitimate benefits claimants a bad name.

“You’ve come as close as you possibly could to finding yourself in prison.”

Smith, who has a disabled son, admitted the illegal claim at a previous hearing.

The offence came to light following a joint investigation by Bolsover District Council and the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Speaking before the case, district Cllr Rose Bowler said: “This is the largest ever joint case we have investigated.

“To illegally claim benefits you are not entitled to over a nine-year period is staggering.

“This shows that we will eventually catch up with these people and take the most appropriate and severest action possible.”

Those who suspect anyone of benefit fraud can contact the DWP hotline number on 0845 608 8521.