8 Nov 2018

Solicitor struck off for benefit fraud

A former solicitor convicted of housing benefit fraud has been banned from the profession.

The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last month struck off Abosede Akinleye following the 59-year-old’s conviction for fraud by false representation.

Akinleye, who also sat occasionally as a member of the employment tribunal and was not practising at the time, was found to have made a false representation in an application for a discretionary housing payment to the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. She was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court to a 12-month community order and 200 hours’ unpaid work for the community.

In sentencing, the judge said Akinleye signed a declaration which was purported to be a true record of her financial and personal situation, but a jury found she dishonestly and deliberately concealed a post office account in which there was a balance of nearly £3,000.

The judge made clear there was ‘no question’ of her having carelessly omitted this information.

Akinleye accepted there was nothing she could do about the conviction and admitted breaching SRA rules, but she continued to deny having acted dishonestly.

In mitigation, she accepted she made a serious error of judgement but said the post office account was a benefit account which largely paid for family members: she deliberately left this section blank on her application form because she did not want to guess what was in the account. She maintained she was eligible for housing benefit.

Akinleye said she was ashamed and profusely apologised to the SRA and members of her profession. Since her conviction, she had not been able to take up employment and was now claiming universal credit.

The tribunal accepted her misconduct was a one-off but said it had been deliberate, and the solicitor had not shown any genuine insight into her actions. She was struck off and ordered to pay £3,300 in costs.


2 Nov 2018

Immigrant benefits fraudster had four jobs

A benefits scrounger who pocketed almost £30,000 in handouts while holding down four jobs has gone free after a judge agreed to let him pay the money back - over the next 11 years.

Rassul Kadir, 31, claimed incapacity benefit for his 'bad back' and said he was unfit for work - yet worked at a grocery firm, a cake-makers, a job agency and a vitamins company.

His scam went on for four years after he was quizzed following a tip-off.

He claimed he did not realise he had done anything wrong as did not understand English or the UK benefits system.

At Preston Crown Court, Kadir, from Blackpool, admitted two charges of fraudulently failing to disclose information about his work to the DWP and one of making a false statement to claim Council Tax Benefit.

He was given a 30-week jail sentence suspended for 12 months after Judge Beverley Lunt said he could pay back the remaining money at £175 a month. It means the sum may not be fully paid back until May 2030.

He has already paid back £3,000 after opening his own car wash. Former Afghan asylum seeker Kadir had arrived in the UK with his father when he was 16 in 2003 after they fled the Taliban and moved to Preston before settling in Blackpool.

Prosecuting, Fiona McNeill, said: 'The defendant claimed £28,979 in benefits over the course of four years. He was in receipt of income benefit between April 6, 2008, and May 1 2012. He said he was sick as and unable to work due to a back complaint.

'During this time, he held down a number of jobs. At first, he was working on a temporary basis with a company through the Best Connections group. He was a temporary worker, working on a transient basis, not a permanent one.

'Between August 2009 and May 2012, he worked for the Palmer and Harvey wholesale grocers, a cake maker at Lathams and he was packing vitamins at the Nutrition Group.

'He was arrested following an investigation by the Department for Work and Pensions. In interview with the police, he was at first reluctant to accept his failings, but once it had been explained to him he did accept that he was at fault. He was interviewed twice - once in February 2017 and and again in March 2017.

'He stopped claiming benefits around October 2013 after declaring himself self-employed.'

In interview Kadir at first denied doing any paid work but when confronted with evidence admitted what he had done claiming he did not understand the claims system or understand English.

Judge Beverley Lunt told him: 'I am going to pass a suspended sentence for this.If he is actually earning money now and paying it back, then that’s better than paying back through benefits.

'I think a sentence of 30 weeks custody suspended for 12 months would be appropriate. I also take into account the previous good character and the fact that he stopped claiming benefits.

'What you did, Mr Kadir, was very wrong, you obtained money that you were not entitled to. But you stopped this a while ago and have now set up your own business and are paying back into the system.

'It must be a prison sentence so people realise how serious benefit fraud is, but I am going to suspend that sentence. I am also making a compensation order for you to pay back £25,000 at £175 a month. You must keep out of trouble, Mr Kadir, or you will be back before the court and likely go to prison.'

The judge declined to hear mitigation but at an earlier hearing Kadir’s lawyer Gerry Coyle said his client had fled Afghanistan with his father because of the Taliban regime.

Mr Coyle added: 'He was 16 at the time and very inexperienced when it came to living in the UK. He now realises he did the wrong thing and found himself in a lot of lumber.

'He has since turned his life round and has a car wash business which employs six people. He has started to repay the money he had on a monthly basis.'


1 Nov 2018

"Ghostbuster gran" said she was disabled

Grandma Nicola McVicker, 53, tried to convince social services she suffered from crippling “social phobia” and could not walk more than 50 metres.

But conniving McVicker was employed by Ghostly Goings On, which organises trips to “haunted” properties.

She is said to have worked as a paranormal investigator for three years – a job that required her to spend hours on her feet.

The “party animal” – who has a previous conviction for benefit fraud from 2007 – was clocked dancing at a hen do while claiming a disability living allowance, Gloucester Crown Court heard.

It comes as the bill for benefit fraud soared to £3.8billion in 2017 - with more than £70million a week handed to fraudsters or wrongly paid out, it was revealed in August.

Officers from the Department of Work and Pensions also spotted her jogging across a car park – despite being given a special mobility car funded by taxpayers.

She insisted she had breathing difficulties and needed diazepam to remain calm in social settings.

But her Facebook profile revealed how she had an “active social life”.

McVicker’s lies about her condition meant she was given a higher rate of disability living allowance and pocketed more than £19,000 she was entitled to.

She pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances between January 3, 2012 and July 5, 2016.

McVicker had initially denied the charge and had been due to stand trial yesterday until she changed her plea at the last minute.

Prosecutor Chris Smyth told the court: “Her capabilities had improved. She had become sufficiently mobile to shop on her own, work, socialise, and on occasion, fairly energetically.

"But she said she had extreme anxiety attacks, and breathing difficulties, and could not walk anywhere without diazepam, and being with someone. She said she could not leave her home alone at anytime due to social phobia.

"She said she could not walk more than 50 metres, and some days not at all, when her pain relief was not satisfactory. She said she was 'completely dependent on others' and in her renewal application she said she could only walk two metres very slowly".

Mitigating, Michael Anning told how McVicker’s health was “worse now than it was in the surveillance”.

Her medical issues were the result of a “vicious attack” in 2005 which saw her “beaten and stabbed”, leading to a psychological and physical deterioration,” Mr Anning said.

McVicker was only working for Ghostly Goings On as a volunteer, the lawyer added.

She admitted dancing at a Christmas party – but insisted she had to be “heavily medicated” and it had “cost her a week in bed”.

Speaking about her previous benefit fraud conviction, Mr Anning added: “She had a child who became pregnant. With the increased financial demands she acknowledges she worked when claiming benefits.”

Sentencing McVicker to eight months in prison, suspended for a year, Judge Michael Callum described the DWP as a “lifeline for many deserving people”.

"When someone like you turns to dishonesty to claim more, or like you drift over by not notifying a change, you not only demean yourself, you also take wrongly from a very limited pot of money.

"That is why in my judgement in relation to this benefit, the court treats it as very serious offence.

"Albeit as a volunteer, you worked. You were socialising.

"I accept you have ailments physical and mental. They may be greater now than they were in 2016. Today you do not portray as the healthy woman in surveillance two years ago.

"It can only be a custodial sentence, but I will suspend it.”

But Judge Cullum warned McVicker: "If you breach it, in reality whether you have disabilities or not you will go to prison.”

Source with pictures

31 Oct 2018

Benefit fraud magistrate said she was disabled

A benefits cheat magistrate who said she could barely walk was spotted strolling around the Trafford Centre - and dancing at her own wedding.

Single mother Sandra Howell, who sentenced people in her role as a JP in Stockport, has now been jailed for lying about her disabilities, which she said were the result of a car accident.

A judge blamed her 'flagrant dishonesty' and dubbed her a 'fraudster'.

The 43-year-old claimed thousands of pounds in higher rate Disability Living Allowance while secretly working as a domestic cleaner for various customers.

Howell was in a wheelchair in the dock during her trial at Liverpool Crown Court. Jurors were shown footage of her walking unaided around the court building.

The court heard evidence from cleaning customers including a head teacher who told how she went to Howell’s wedding and saw her dancing.

The jury took less than two hours to find her guilty of two fraud offences.

Howell had denied the charges, which spanned three-and-a-half-years and involved a total of £26,539.

Judge David Aubrey QC told Howell: "What you said to the [Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)] was a sham and it was deceitful throughout. You sitting in judgement on others was a sham and a pretence - and a pretence with the highest form of hypocrisy.

“Between January 2011 and July 2016 you [were] sitting as a magistrate at Stockport Magistrates’ Court in accordance with your oath that you had taken to do right to all manner of people.

“You were administering the law, presiding over cases and sitting in judgement on those before you, no doubt on occasions having to determine whether the evidence was so serious that only an immediate custodial sentence could be justified for a particular defendant before you and the bench.

“During much of that time while you were supposedly administering the law you were breaking the law, repeatedly committing criminal acts by defrauding the state, the DWP, by making flagrant dishonest representations by gross exaggeration of your health issues in order to secure benefits that you were not entitled to.

“You were stealing from the state."

Within a week of completing a claim form in January 2013 she was sitting as a magistrate and two weeks after completing another similar form in November the next year she was again on the Bench and continued in that role until July 2016.

Judge Aubrey said that despite saying she was virtually unable to walk, surveillance footage in June 2016 showed her at the Trafford Centre and working for her cleaning business.

Addressing Howell, he said: "Throughout this period of time you were a fraudster. What you said to the Department …. was a sham and it was deceitful throughout.

“You sitting in judgement on others was a sham and a pretence - and a pretence with the highest form of hypocrisy.”

The judge told the court Howell's claim forms were 'riddled with falsities and dishonesty'. She  was sentenced to nine months in prison.

Martine Snowdon, prosecuting, told the court how Howell told the benefits agency that 'she was unable to work because of her disability following a road traffic accident in 2007'.

She said Howell claimed that she had falls every day, couldn't got to the toilet on her own and struggled to get up and down the stairs.

In her December 2014 claim form she said she 'was always in pain'. The claim form said 'the pain is similar to a boiling pan of water about to simmer and when it boils then I have to stop. It happens within seconds of walking', the court heard.

She also claimed that it took her between one and two hours to get in and out of bed and she needed help dressing.

She said she was only able to do half the 26 half-day sessions as a JP but evidence showed she had worked both half and full days as a magistrate with corresponding expense claims.

Deborah Whitney, DWP lead investigator, went through the claim forms submitted by the defendant in which she told of pain in her shoulders, back, legs and feet.

Howell said she needed her ex-husband and daughter to help her around the house and she needed encouragement to eat and drink. She claimed it had taken her a month to fill in the form because of her problems including poor concentration.

In her early forms she claimed she could walk no more than ten metres without severe discomfort, though later forms reduced this to five metres. She told how she walked more slowly than a pensioner and was often reduced to tears with pain and struggled going out.

Howell, who sat in court with a large bottle of morphine alongside her during the trial, denied she had exaggerated her health problems.

Defence barrister Ian Metcalfe said that Howell has made some repayments to the DWP.

Speaking after the sentencing, George Ward from the Mersey Cheshire Fraud Unit of the Crown Prosecution Service, said Howell's 'reputation is in tatters' and said 'she has only herself and her greed to blame'.

"Let this be a lesson to anyone, whatever their position in society, who thinks they can cheat the system and go unpunished,” he said.

Source with pictures

30 Oct 2018

Benefit fraudster said he was disabled

A 67-year-old man who was paid benefits of nearly £60,000 after claiming he could hardly walk was photographed jogging up a hill, painting while standing on a rooftop - and sitting astride a Harley Davidson motorbike, a court heard.

Secret surveillance of Anthony Pritchard in February last year 'demonstrated far greater capabilities than he claimed', Gloucester Crown Court was told.

Pritchard, from Thrupp, near Stroud, had claimed Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments by stating he was 'virtually unable to walk', said prosecutor Alun Williams.

Pritchard admitted four offences of benefit fraud between August 2006 and April 2017. He had received £59,211.25 more than he was entitled to, Mr Williams told Judge Michael Cullum.

The prosecutor said two of Pritchard's offences related to him failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions that he was receiving rental income from his property. He received income support and pension credit without revealing that income.

But the 'particularly serious' offences he committed related to him failing to notify the DWP that his 'capabilities had improved and his care needs reduced', Mr Williams said.

Pritchard made the claim for DLA on the basis that he was 'virtually unable to walk' but covert surveillance between February 16 and 28, 2017 'demonstrated far greater capabilities than he claimed', said the prosecutor.

Mr Williams said he was seen 'jogging' to his car up and down a slope of 80 metres, 'unaided, without pain or imbalance'.

Pritchard was also observed 'walking at pace, albeit with a slight limp' and 'visiting B&Q and parking 50 metres from the entrance, ignoring the disabled bay'.

“Finally he was also witnessed on June 11, 2017 at the Gloucester Motor Show, walking along unaided with no assistance,” the prosecutor said. “There is a slight limp but no walking aids.”

Those investigations led the department to request a police search warrant of his address.

“No bedding was found downstairs,” Mr Williams said. “And the garden was neat and tidy.”

The barrister said: “There was photographic evidence of a very full lifestyle. Capabilities far greater than he declared.”

He referred to photos of a 'new motorhome' with bikes mounted on a rear rack, sightseeing trips to the Olympic games in 2012, and of Pritchard on the roof of his extension project getting involved in the painting.

“This was confirmed on his Facebook account,” Mr Williams said. “He is stood on a step ladder with paint roller in his hand.”

The court heard there was a picture from 2013 of him 'sat astride a Harley Davidson, and he had been the registered keeper of a Ducati motorcycle since 2009.

There were also other vehicles that Mr Williams referred to - an MG Coupe, a Ford Motorcaravan, a Vauxhall Combi Van and a Jaguar XK8 convertible.

The barrister said that Pritchard became the registered keeper of a Harley Davidson in 2012, and through MOT checks the investigators established it had covered 4,000 miles between that year and 2017.

“There were also five insurance policies recorded on that motorcycle,” Mr Williams said. “That is at odds with what he claimed of his abilities.”

Mr Williams turned to the fourth count on the indictment relating to PIP, and said: “He phoned the department of work and pensions in December 2016. He verbally answered questions and completed a form subsequently. He said he needed help preparing food, washing bathing, dressing and had other incapacities”

Judge Cullum said that could be interpreted as “dishonest from the start as it does not start until 2016. A dishonest action on that date.”

The court heard that in interview following his arrest Pritchard' maintained his stance, until confronted with evidence.'

Mr Williams said “But then he was obfuscating and sarcastic - challenging the prosecution to prove it.”

Mr Williams said that Pritchard had six previous convictions for fifteen offences, but the most recent was 2007 and 'they must be regarded as spent'.

The prosecutor concluded by saying: “If not a lavish lifestyle, it included a great deal of material wealth, the motorhomes, the sports cars and the motorcycles. We ask that the court proceeds under the proceed of crime act.”

Sarah Jenkins, representing Pritchard said: “He has suffered from a number of different health complaints.”

She said he struggled with anxiety and being in crowded spaces. The trips to the Olympic games were with a partner who 'helps him tolerate situations he could not do on his own'.

“There were periods of time when it seemed to be worse and periods when better,” the lawyer said. “If there was a day when he felt well in the morning he would try and do jobs around the house. When it happened it would only be for a short period of time. If he pushed past that, his condition would feel much worse.

“If he was having a good day, anxiety under control, feeling well, he would take advantage of that.

“There was a definite pattern of health being up and down. Since the investigation begun, there has been a continuing decline in is health. He cannot walk unaided at the moment,” the lawyer said.

She also told the judge that Pritchard was under the care of two specialists due to his present health problems.

“I would ask Your Honour to consider that at 67 with a relatively lengthy period since any offences committed he is not a man that needs to receive an immediate custodial sentence,” she argued. “It could be reflected by a period of custody that is suspended.”

Mrs Jenkins said that as a result of the proceeds of crime procedures, his assets would be liquidised and he faced losing his home.

Probably liquidated. Liquidised seems a new but spectacular penalty.

“He is going to be punished for these offences. The DWP are going to recover that money from him. He owns his own home. That is his life's work. The reality is that will be recovered from him. He does not lead a lavish lifestyle.”

Imposing a suspended jail term, Judge Cullum said: “You are now in decreasing health, and have had matters of ill health for some time. But it certainly did not stop you when you were covertly observed, jogging, walking unaided, and going to B&Q, all in 2017.”

The judge noted that now: “You clearly present as someone who would be wholly incapable of that, but your condition now is of less importance.”

He ruled: “Your disability was very significantly different from what you were portraying. That is the seriousness of this case. You were simply not being honest with the authorities, exaggerating and to be honest and lying.”

The judge told Pritchard by doing this he was doing 'a huge number of people a disservice'.

“Firstly those people who are so often criticised for administering these [benefit assessment] procedures and secondly those who a struggling and striving for these benefits. You take money out of the pot for those that are properly deserving.

“I have to consider stark choice of suspending or not. Bearing in mind all I have read about you, I am satisfied that the balance does mean that this can be a sentence that is suspended. It is to be hoped that every penny will be retrieved from you.”

The judge imposed a nine month jail term suspended for 12 months and fixed a proceeds of crime hearing for March 4 next year.


29 Oct 2018

£20k Polish benefits fraudster was benefits worker

A mother fiddled more than £20,000 in handouts while working in her local council's benefits department. (h/t Dave)

Edyta Ratecka, 41, from Cardiff, lied that she was a single mother before being caught out by Facebook pictures showing she lived with her boyfriend.

A judge told Ratecka she 'knew what she was doing' because she worked in the benefits department of Cardiff Council.

Polish-born Ratecka claimed benefits while living with boyfriend Daniel Thomas and her daughter - before later giving birth to his twins in 2013.

Facebook pictures showed the family celebrating holidays and Christmas together.

Nuhu Gobir, prosecuting, said: 'Information came to light she was living with her partner and an investigation was launched into her benefit claim. Evidence was obtained her partner Daniel Thomas was in full-time employment and was living with her while she was claiming benefit. She was invited to an interview with investigators under caution. She said she didn't live with Mr Taylor but he stayed sometimes to help with the children.

'She was presented with all the evidence in the interview but could offer no reasonable explanation why she did not notify the council and HMRC about a change in her circumstances.'

Cardiff Crown Court heard she claimed a total of £20,492 between 2013 and 2016.

Ratecka pleaded guilty to fraudulent activity, making a false representation to obtain benefits, and of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances.

She was handed a 24-week suspended sentence.

Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said: 'You were working for a benefit section of Cardiff council so you were aware of what you were doing.'

Ratecka was also ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work, complete a six-day rehabilitation activity requirement, and to pay £300.

Source with pictures

24 Oct 2018

Smoking mother wants to get off scot free

A £78,000 benefit cheat wants to get out of doing unpaid work - claiming she's incapable of doing it.

Kathryn Leathard fleeced taxpayers for five years by claiming to be a single mum. She dodged jail last year due to her three kids. Instead, she was handed 140 hours of unpaid work to do.

We posted here that in essence she had escaped punishment.

But now she's trying to get that scrapped, claiming it is "unworkable".

The 30-year-old was due at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court on Monday but failed to show. The court heard she had called up that day claiming she was "too anxious" to attend.

Last year the Prudhoe woman pleaded guilty to three benefit fraud offences, receiving a 12-month suspended sentence along with the community service.

She'd claimed tax credits, income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit on the basis she was living alone.

But inspectors realised she was living with her partner - after his Just Eat account was registered to her Parkwood Avenue address.

Sentencing Leathard in November, Judge Stephen Earl slammed her for taking from the public purse.

“Let’s be clear - this is public money you defrauded the Government and the public out of," he told Newcastle Crown Court. “People who pay into it are entitled to that money.

“It may be you would have been entitled to some of it but but the effect is, when people commit fraud, you never know the full truth. I accept you didn’t get into this seeing how much you could defraud but you have defrauded and it’s a large some of money."

However he said "it can't be easy" looking after three children, adding: " I’m not going to take her away from her children.”

Between 2011 and 2016, previously-unconvicted Leathard pocketed £78,990.

But now she's launched an application to amend the requirements of a suspended sentence.

The application claims the unpaid work is "unworkable having been assessed as unfit for work". The reason is unclear as she failed to attend court on Monday.

Magistrates heard she may not have attended as a blunder meant some documents may have stated the hearing was at South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court. However, the court clerk clarified she had called to say she wasn't attending, stating: "She has contacted us to say she is too anxious to come to court."

The case was adjourned until October 31, with a venue to be decided.

Source with pictures

22 Oct 2018

Benefit fraudster claimed she lived alone

A woman has appeared in court over a £48,000 benefit fraud.

Stacey Forster was put in the dock after it was found she was paid money she was not entitled to.

The 26-year-old, from Walker, claimed income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit over a number of years but had not alerted the authorities to a change in her circumstances.

She failed to inform them that she was living in the same household with a man as husband and wife, which meant she should not have received these payments.

At North Tyneside Magistrates' Court, Forster pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits. The offences spanned periods between 2011 and 2017.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: "The total loss amounts to £48,000. This is someone who was not entitled to benefits and does not play fair with the benefit people. She is given money that she's not entitled to.

"She was living together with someone but has not declared that to the authorities and has received benefits to which she was not entitled. You need to notify the departments of any change in circumstances."

Magistrates decided to send the case to Newcastle Crown Court as they felt their sentencing powers were insufficient.

Forster was asked to appear at crown court on November 14 for sentence and was released on unconditional bail.

Source with picture

Not hard, is it. Presumably her partner didn't notice a thing.

16 Oct 2018

Sentencing for benefit fraud deferred

A woman has apologised after illegally claiming thousands of pounds in benefits.

Razean Begum Afsar, from Middlesbrough, failed to tell the Department of Works and Pensions that she had more savings than was allowed.

Now the 55-year-old has been brought before Teesside magistrates where she admitted five charges.

But after learning there was a proceeds of crime element to the case the hearing was adjourned to a later date at Teesside Crown Court.

Afsar pleaded guilty to committing fraud in that between February 8, 2013 and April 24, 2013 at Middlesbrough she failed to disclose to the Department for Work and Pensions that she had capital in excess of the permitted limits, intending to make a gain of £1,103.70 in Income Support.

She also admitted that on April 25, 2013 at Middlesbrough she committed fraud by dishonestly making a false representation, in that she had no capital in excess of the permitted limits, intending to make a gain of £2007.60 in Employment Support Allowance.

Further charges of dishonestly making a false statement covering claiming Employment Support Allowance in 2013, Job Seekers Allowance in June 2015 and Income Support in 2015 while having the excess capital were also admitted.

Amy Levitt, defending, told the hearing her client was sorry for what had happened.

She said: “She does wish to express her deep remorse and regret. She is extremely apologetic for her actions.”

Afsar was granted unconditional bail until sentencing at Teesside Crown Court.

Source with picture

15 Oct 2018

"Disabled" pensioner walked her dog 4 times a day

A 72-year-old benefits cheat who falsely claimed more than £22,400 was caught after being spotted walking her dog up to four times a day.

Patricia Kowalewski claimed disability living allowance between March 24 2010 and September 27 2016, stating she wasn’t able to carry out certain everyday tasks.

But the Department of Work and Pensions received an anonymous tip-off before investigators carried out surveillance.

Fiscal depute Anna Chisholm said: “She claimed that her needs were greater than they actually were. This first came to light when an anonymous allegation came to the DWP as to the accused’s ability to walk the dog… up to four times a day.”

Investigators watched Kowalewski on eight occasions also spotting her walking with no aid, at a “normal pace”, opening and closing garage doors with no difficulty and picking up shopping from her car.

Ms Chisholm said Kowalewski had claimed a total of £44,929.50 over the same period but accepted she “would have been entitled to some of the disability allowance”.

Kowalewski appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for sentencing having previously pled guilty.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly said: “It’s a matter of great shame to her that she finds herself facing a criminal process so late in life.”

He said Kowalewski suffered from back problems and chronic pain and had good days and bad days, adding: “It could be argued it’s a partial fraud.” He said she had been paying money back at £200 per month.

Sheriff Graham Buchanan said: “Plainly this is a serious offence because of the amount of money which you obtained from the state to which you were not entitled.”

He ordered Kowalewski, from Kingswells, to carry out 270 hours of unpaid work.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like these show how we are catching the minority who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from those who need it. We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”

Source with picture