Woman jailed over £77,000 benefits fraud

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A benefits cheat fleeced the public purse of £77,000 after claiming she was unfit to work despite holding down a full time job at a wholesalers.

Karen Tomlinson’s nine-year deception came to light when she made repeated appeals against a Department of Work and Pensions decision to stop her benefits after a medical assessment.

Tomlinson, of Ledger Place, Outwood, Wakfield, was jailed for four months after a court heard she used two different national insurance numbers and two different addresses in order to commit the offences.

Leeds Crown Court heard Tomlinson worked a 40-hour week and earned a salary of £20,000 despite claiming she needed to use a handrail to get in and out of her flat.

Michael Jowett, prosecuting, said Tomlinson made fraudulent claims for incapacity benefit, unemployment support as well as housing and council tax benefit before the offending came to light.

The prosecutor said a decision was made to stop Tomlinson’s benefits in 2012 after she underwent a medical assessment.

She continued to receive benefit payments pending two appeal hearings.

The DWP then launched an investigation in May last year and it was revealed she had an £11.50 per hour job with Costco.

Mr Jowett said: “She used two national insurance numbers - one for her benefits and one for her employment and then used two addresses - her own and her parents’.”

Tomlinson was interviewed and initially denied having a job. She said she had no explanation for why wages had been paid into her bank account.

Tomlinson pleaded guilty to four offences of benefit fraud and two of failing to notify a change in circumstances.

Patrick Palmer, mitigating, said Tomlinson committed the offences after her marriage ended and she was left with debts of around £25,000.

Mr Palmer said the offending was not committed to fund a lavish lifestyle.

He added: “She has never held a passport and has never been abroad.”

The barrister said Tomlinson had been off work since 2015 with an injury to her hand and was suffering with mental health problems.

Mr Palmer said Tomlinson was now repaying the amount she had illegally claimed.

Judge Robin Mairs said: “This happened at a time when the public purse was stretched to almost breaking point.

“Money like this is needed by those who have real abject need.”