27 May 2016

Illegal sub-letting featured in TV series

A crackdown on social housing residents in Aylesbury Vale who commit tenancy fraud is being featured in a BBC series.

Council House Crackdown highlights the growing problem of housing fraud around the country – the most common types being unlawful subletting, obtaining housing by deception and wrongly claimed succession.

There can be serious consequences, as those found guilty of fraud may receive a large fine, or in some cases, a prison sentence, and the perpetrator may also be required to pay back any money they gained.

The Vale of Aylesbury Housing Trust’s investigators appear in the series alongside their counterparts from around the UK.

The trust said they are often alerted to a possible fraud via an associated complaint, for example reports of anti-social behaviour.

Following an amnesty in October 2015, when people using their tenancy inappropriately had the opportunity to hand their keys in and no further action would be taken, the trust said it has taken a ‘hard line’ on possible fraud.

There have been a ‘number of investigations that have resulted in regaining possession of the property and reallocating it to a family in housing need’.

Masaud Subedar, head of community services added: “Social housing is a valuable resource and there is a chronic shortage of affordable homes both in the Vale and nationally. We have adopted a zero tolerance approach and we are committed to tackling fraud. Our investigators do an excellent job of identifying potential cases and piecing together the evidence available to them to enable us to recover the property and reallocate it to a family in housing need. I am delighted we have been able to work with the team on Council House Crackdown to show this serious issue. It has helped us send a strong message to people who misuse their tenancy.”

Council House Crackdown runs on BBC One from 9.15am, each morning until Friday 3 June.


26 May 2016

Tenancy fraudster must pay £130,000

A council tenant has been ordered to pay Barnet Council almost £130,000 after illegally subletting his council home for 16 years.

David Lawal, 56, of Clifton Gardens, Uxbridge, pleaded guilty to five charges of obtaining services by deception and sub-letting a property following an investigation by the council’s Corporate Anti-Fraud Team (CAFT).

Harrow Crown Court heard how Lawal and his family had presented themselves as homeless to the council in 1994 and were offered a two bedroom property in Kingsbury Road, Colindale. But as the investigation later revealed, Lawal failed to declare that he in fact owned three other homes.

A council spokesman said: “Lawal did not give up his tenancy on the council house in Kingsbury Road and instead sublet it to various tenants over the years until finally handing back the keys in October 2014. In 2005 Lawal even contacted the council to say the council property in Colindale was too small for him and his family and requested a larger property. When investigators called at the Colindale house they found subtenants living in the property and that the lounge had been partitioned to provide further accommodation.”

Lawal was sentenced on May 12 when he was handed a 14-month suspended sentence, ordered to carry out 180 hours of unpaid work, pay a compensation order of £127,000, pay costs of more than £20,000 and a victim surcharge of £100. The £127,000 compensation order was calculated on the basis of how much it would have cost the council to house a family of four in temporary accommodation over the period the illegal subletting took place.

Lawal now has six months in which to pay the money to the council.

Councillor Richard Cornelius, Leader of Barnet Council, said: “Council homes are there for those in genuine need so it’s totally unacceptable for someone to abuse the system in such a brazen fashion as this, and over such a long period of time. Not only was this council house sublet but its tenant was the owner of three properties. This case, and the size of the compensation order which must be paid, sends out a very clear message to anyone who might be contemplating something similar.”


Illegal sub-letting of social housing is a wicked crime. It's not just the (considerable amount of) money - people and families who need a home are being deprived of it.

25 May 2016

Benefit thief's repayment arrangements can't be revealed

A woman working as a clairvoyant fraudulently claimed nearly £27,000 in benefits.

Now investigators have made it crystal clear to Amanda Barrymore that despite avoiding a year jail term, all money she swindled will have to be paid back.

Barrymore, 62, from Stanway, boasts on one of her Facebook accounts of being a “self-confessed Spiritual Workaholic”. Her website also details how her 36 years of work have taken her abroad to give people one-to-one readings or public demonstrations.

Barrymore also says online how she has a spiritual guide called 'Patrick' who was a 19th Century Catholic priest. "We work well together as I am a 'say it as it is' and a ‘very upfront and no frills’ type of Medium," she writes. But benefit fraud investigators discovered she’d been not so upfront when it came to pretending to be jobless.

Her fraud came to light following a Department for Work and Pensions exercise. Investigators contacted telemarketing companies to obtain details of their employees and sub-contactors.

Barrymore admitted to magistrates she had been claiming housing benefit and council tax for four years up to July 2014. The court was told Jobseekers' Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance were wrongfully claimed in January and September 2010. Magistrates gave Barrymore a year-long suspended jail term, community work for 180 hours and a £165 bill for various court charges.

Gordon Collins, of the Fraud and Error Service at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “I can confirm that DWP have recently successfully prosecuted Amanda Barrymore for failing to declare that she was working as a clairvoyant. This meant that she was not entitled to the benefits that she had been claiming leading to the overpaid benefit which you have details of."

He added the DWP will directly recover from Barrymore the £26,711.44 owed to the taxpayer.
I cannot disclose what specific arrangements have been agreed as this would constitute revealing personal information but I can confirm that recovery of tax payers’ money will take place either by payments of lump sums or by regular repayments until all of the monies are repaid – this is the case for all of these types of recovery of fraudulent claims to benefit. We would have considered using the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover this money but there are no assets that we can legally seize.
Repayment arrangements should be revealed in the public interest. So should any failures to keep to plans.

"The DWP do have a help line where members of the public can leave details of individuals who they suspect of committing benefit fraud – details can be left anonymously and are treated in the strictest of confidence. All such referrals are looked at and acted on where evidence is found that benefit fraud is taking place." The number for the National Benefit Fraud Hotline is 0800 854 440.

Barrymore's website describes how she has been interviewed by the press, including psychic magazines, radio and television. But Barrymore did not respond to the Daily Gazette when it left a message for her at her flat yesterday.

Is it just me, or is there something bizarre about a clairvoyant needing glasses?

19 May 2016

A meaty punishment for £4.6k benefit fraud

A man claimed thousands of pounds in benefits he was not entitled to when he moved from job to job and failed to tell Kirklees Council.

Christopher Hall would start employment at a company but then move onto another place of work just a few months later.

Kirklees magistrates heard that Hall, formerly of Paddock, worked for at least three firms between June 2012 and February 2014. During that time he claimed £4,681 in housing and council tax benefits that he was not entitled to.

Hall was found guilty after a trial of three offences of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain and one charge of fraud by false representation.

Miles Barker, prosecuting on behalf of Kirklees Council, told magistrates that the 37-year-old first applied to the council for benefits in April 2012. He gained employment on a temporary but regular basis over the next two years.

Between June 1 and August 1 2012 he was employed by Blueberry MA. Hall then worked for DK Consulting between November 1 2012 and January 31 2013. From January 19 2014 to February 28 the same year he worked at Howden Joinery.

Mr Barker said: “Each time he has obtained a job he’s required to inform the authority of that change in circumstances as he is when he finishes that job. This is so that his benefits can be adjusted accordingly. He was working short term employment didn’t declare this and continued to receive the same amount of benefits.”

Magistrates heard that none of the fraudulently obtained cash has yet been repaid to the authority.

He also committed fraud by claiming that neither he nor his partner had a bank account.

Hall, now living in Wakefield, claimed he left all the money matters to his partner.

Magistrates sentenced him to 100 hours of unpaid work.

He also has to pay the full amount of the money he fraudulently obtained to the council as well as £1,000 towards prosecution costs.


17 May 2016

Conditional discharge for illegal sub-letting

A man who sublet his social housing property has been prosecuted by Bedford Borough Council.

Michael Reynolds, 66, was found guilty of subletting his bpha home in Milburn Road, under the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013.

The Council’s Investigations Team found Mr Reynolds had moved out of his bpha property in March 2013 to live with his partner in South Wales, and had subsequently sublet the home to his daughter and her partner.

The court heard that Reynolds had no right to sublet the property, which should have been returned to the housing association when he moved.

Mr Reynolds was given a one-year conditional discharge and ordered to pay £626.10 plus £200 in legal costs. The property has been returned to bpha.

Cllr Michael Headley, Portfolio Holder for Finance at Bedford Borough Council, said: “When people sublet their social housing properties they are directly depriving a family in need of a home. By investigating these matters the Council is able to make more properties available to provide safe and secure homes for those in need. The Council and bpha will not stand for abuse and fraud within the social housing system and will take action against those found to be subletting or lying to obtain properties.”

George Parkinson, Head of Housing Management at bpha, said: “Social housing is a limited resource in Bedfordshire and tenancy fraud, such as subletting, deprives people who are in genuine need of a home. We are pleased with the outcome of this case, and the property will now go to a family most in need on the Housing Register.”


He has effectively been let off.

12 May 2016

Jet-setting model jailed for benefit fraud

A model who claimed she was so poor she lived on food handouts from her local mosque has been jailed after benefits inspectors uncovered her jetset lifestyle from glamorous holiday snaps posted on Facebook. (h/t Dave)

Carina Reid, 32, claimed more than £50,000 in housing and council tax benefits to help fund luxury holidays in Dubai, Hong Kong, Spain, Portugal, France and Switzerland and meals at the West End’s top restaurants.

She claimed handouts to pay rent on a flat in an upmarket block in King’s Road, Chelsea, which she actually owned, and was found to hold £180,000 in 19 separate bank accounts.

Reid, who also works as a beautician, told Kensington and Chelsea Council she had no savings, took no holidays and made so little from her Wandsworth beauty business Enhance Medica that she accepted free food and drink from her local mosque. But on the firm’s website, she claimed a “VIP film star” clientele including Michael BublĂ© and David Schwimmer, and revealed plans to expand into Dubai and Los Angeles.

While claiming benefits between 2009 and 2014 she went on a string of luxury trips which were uncovered by suspicious council fraud inspectors who trawled through her social media profile. Her Facebook account, under the pseudonym Cara Delmonte, shows her sipping champagne in Harrods and dining at other top establishments including Scotts in Mayfair, the Dorchester and the Berkeley.

Alongside a photo from Laduree tea rooms in Harrods in August, 2014, she wrote: “Drinking champagne. It’s a hard life!” Pictures from the same year show her taking a helicopter trip at the Cannes film festival, posing in a glamorous evening gown by a luxury cruise liner in Lisbon and relaxing at a rooftop pool. In February 2014 she went skiing in Davos and posted: “It’s bloody hard. I’m aching but surviving. Might give snowboarding a whirl too.”

She spent New Year 2013 in Barcelona, while just weeks earlier she posted a picture of herself draped across a Lamborghini in Dubai after attending a yacht party. During a trip to Macau, Hong Kong in 2010 she wrote: “Getting over the pool party yesterday so relaxing and chilling with millionnaires drinking champagne and Pimms!”

Investigations by Kensington and Chelsea’s anti-fraud squad found the King’s Road flat she claimed to rent in her benefit claim was purchased with a deposit of £20,000. She was able to acquire a mortgage based on genuine tax returns, which showed Enhance was a thriving business. A further financial investigation revealed she sent £116,000 abroad in 2013-2014 to acquire property in Dubai.

She was sentenced to three years in prison at Isleworth Crown Court having pleaded guilty to nine charges of dishonestly claiming housing benefit and council tax benefit. It is one of the most severe sentences ever to have been handed out in London for benefit fraud.

The court heard she had been overpaid £51,110 in benefits, none of which has been recovered.

Reid told the court that she did not believe she had an extravagant lifestyle and claimed some of the trips abroad were paid for by friends or boyfriends, while others were business training trips. She insisted she had always been truthful in her tax affairs.

Sentencing, Judge Douglas Marks Moore described Reid’s fraud as “sophisticated” and “premeditated” and designed to fund her “lavish lifestyle”. He said this was “not a passive fraud” and that every time she filled in a claim form there was a “positive demonstration to deceive.”

Her beauty services are based at a separate unconnected beauty business, Regina Doctor H, in upmarket shopping street Old York Road, by Wandsworth Town rail station.

Neighbours told of their shock that “a glamorous and charming” businesswoman had been exposed as a fraudster.

Andreja Oblak, 31, a barista at a coffee shop opposite Enhance’s outlet in Old York Road, said: “I can’t believe it. She always seemed so polite and sophisticated. I can’t believe she was such a scammer and she was ripping us all off to pay for her lifestyle.”

A neighbour at her block in Kings Road said: “It’s a shock. We barely saw her because of her jetset lifestyle. She was always partying and just gave the impression of being very successful.”

Councillor Nicholas Paget-Brown, leader of Kensington and Chelsea council said: “Money that was intended for those in greatest need was instead dishonestly used by Carina Reid to fund a lavish lifestyle at taxpayers’ expense. I am very pleased that following our investigation, which uncovered her real circumstances, that the court has handed down this custodial sentence.”

She should have been made to repay twice what she had stolen.

Source with pictures

11 May 2016

Rich woman claimed benefits

A woman who claimed £14,000 in benefits despite holding assets of more than £130,000 and owning three properties has been spared jail. (h/t Dave)

Between October 2010 and April 2013, Rena Griffiths claimed employment support allowance, jobseekers' allowance and council tax benefit because she was unfit to work.

When claiming the benefits, the 58 year old, from Whitefield, signed forms to say that she had no income, savings of less than £16,000 and that the only property that she owned was the one she lived in.

However, the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) discovered that that might not be the case and launched and investigation. The probe found that, at the time she was claiming three benefits, Griffiths held capital in excess of £130,000 and that she owned three other properties — two in the UK and one in Spain. However, she failed to declare these on her forms.

In all, she fraudulently claimed £12,243 from the DWP and £1,757 from Bury Council over the course of three-and-a-half years.

Griffiths admitted five counts of benefit fraud to Bury magistrates on May 3 and was given a 12-week prison sentence suspended for a year.

Magistrates said the offences were serious because the figure of overpayment had been high and she had committed it over a long period of time. She must also pay £85 court costs.

After the hearing, a DWP spokesman said: "Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like this show how we are rooting out the unscrupulous minority who are cheating the system and diverting taxpayers’ money from those who really need it.

"We are determined to find those we suspect of abusing the welfare system by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.

"Failure to report a change in circumstances that may affect your benefit claim, is a crime.


With those assets, she should have to repay twice what she stole. Money motivated her, so hit her in the pocket.

9 May 2016

Benefit fraud was part of wider criminality

A Cheltenham couple who cheated the benefits system out of £55,000 as well as passing fake currency in shops and hoarding contraband tobacco in their home have been warned to expect long jail terms.

Paul Lawrence and Natasha Moxey were both convicted by a Gloucester Crown Court jury of six charges and bailed for pre-sentence reports.

Judge Michael Cullum told the pair "There is an overwhelming likelihood that both of you will receive significant immediate custodial sentences."

They will return to court for sentence on May 26.

The pair had denied all the allegations against them but did not give evidence on their own behalf during their two week trial. They simply made speeches to the jury at the end of the prosecution case but did not go on oath or face cross-examination by prosecutor Mark Hollier.

Lawrence, 62, and Moxey, 31, of of Brown Close, Hester's Way, Cheltenham, had both pleaded not guilty to:
  • Conspiring to pass or tender counterfeit currency between 15 June and 5 July 2012
  • Two offences of dealing in or harbouring cigarettes and tobacco with fraudulent intent on 10th Sept 2012 and 3 July 2913
  • Fraudulently claiming at least £34,249 in housing benefit and council tax between 1 May 2008 and 10 June 2013
  • Fraudulently claiming employment support allowance of at least £10,438 between 1 Jan 2011 and 10 July 2013
  • Defrauding the DWP of at least £10,950 in disability living allowance between Nov 2010 and Jily 2013 by claiming Lawrence suffered to greater disability than he did.
  • After a day and a half of deliberation the jury convicted them unanimously of four of the charges and by a majority of 11-1 on the remaining two charges.
During the trial the jury heard that a third person - Moxey's niece Amanda Oakley - was also involved in the offences.

She worked as a cashier in the Farm Foods shop in Coronation Square, Cheltenham, and accepted counterfeit currency from the pair, giving them genuine money as change when they used the fake £20 notes to pay for small items.

The shop scam was rumbled by managers who watched CCTV footage of the £20 exchanges.

Police then went to the couple's home and found 7,200 duty free cigarettes and 15.2 kilos of rolling tobacco.

Officers also discovered that Lawrence had £90,000 in an offshore Lloyds TSB account in Jersey - but he and Moxey were claiming housing and council tax benefits as well as employment support allowances, Mr Hollier said. They were not entitled to those benefits because they had more than £16,000 in capital.

Also, Lawrence had been receiving disability living allowance even though he had no visible disabilites or problems, Mr Hollier added.

When police later went to their home with council and Dept of Work and Pensions investigators another batch of duty free tobacco weighing 4.10 kilos was found.

The couple both declined to answer any questions when they were arrested.

"Mr Lawrence had been receiving the highest level of care and mobility allowances," said Mr Hollier. "All the evidence we have about him is that he is fine. "

In evidence Miss Oakley confirmed that she took the forged notes from her 'auntie' Natasha and Lawrence and said she was paid with tobacco for her services.

She said she had not realised at first that the couple were giving her forged notes but then she 'clocked' what was going on and went along with it.

She has pleaded guilty to involvement in the currency scam and will be sentenced together with Lawrence and Moxey later this month.


6 May 2016

More convictions under Operation Bronze

A housing officer who took a £2,000 backhander every time she processed a fake homelessness claim for illegal immigrants as part of a £2.4million council scam has been jailed.

Trudy Ali-Balogun, 55, of Stratford, east London, abused her role as a £25,000 a year housing officer at Southwark Council to help process 24 bogus homelessness claims.

She was paid a £2,000 bribe for each application she approved and used the money to treat herself to holidays around the world, Inner London Crown Court heard.

Ali-Balogun approved false birth certificates for children who never existed, as well as made-up wage slips, bank statements and fake foreign passports.

She was jailed for five years while fraudsters Biayo Awotiwon, 47, and Adeyemi Oyedele, 48, were given five months each. Kudiartu Falana, 60, was handed a five month jail sentence suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service. Joseph Olaiya, 53, was sentenced to six months suspended for 12 months and ordered to complete 200 hours of community service.

See a pattern here?

Their trial was part of the wider investigation known as Operation Bronze which has been running since 2011 and has so far yielded more than 30 convictions.

Ibrahim Bundu, a former homeless housing case worker, was previously jailed at Woolwich Crown Court for processing false homeless housing applications in return for backhanders. He is currently serving a six year sentence after failing to pay back the £100,000 ordered by the courts.

Ali-Balogun, who studied criminology at university, was processing bogus applications while working alongside Bundu from November 2003 until her suspension in April 2005. Many of the applicants she helped within the Nigerian community were in the country illegally. Ali-Balogun also processed false birth certificates for children to help the fraudsters jump the housing queue.

Michael Goodwin, prosecuting, explained that the fraud cost the council about £2.4million and left genuine homeless people without a roof above their heads: ‘She sought to exploit and capitalise in the weaknesses and procedures which were clearly in place at the time. Her misconduct represents an abuse of trust placed in her by the local authority.’

Mr Goodwin explained that the case worker was paid at least £20,000 in backhanders and used the bungs to fund trips abroad: ‘Part of her function and responsibility was to protect the public purse by ensuring only those in need of homeless housing were granted it. She acted for financial reward and that would have been paid to her directly by applicants or by third party fixers who were working in the community.’

The prosecutor explained that the offences took place when there was a significant shortage of housing available, something which remains the case. Taxpayers' money was being used to subsidise housing for fraudsters who claimed to be homeless despite owning other properties.

Ali-Balogun was said to have been responsible for 24 applications which she knew contained forged signatures as part of the ‘sophisticated’ arrangement. ‘Only she could have known that it was not being signed as it should have been,’ said Mr Goodwin.

Bogus National Insurance numbers belonging to genuine people were also used along with ‘fake Home Office vignettes’ granting indefinite leave to remain in the UK. In some cases the Home Office had no records of the applicants ever existing in the country.

Mr Goodwin said at least 20 properties were occupied by tenants who were not entitled to them.

Some of the defendants even used ‘bogus’ birth certificates in order to pretend they had children which would speed up their applications, among other benefits. ‘If they had two or three children they were entitled to bigger properties which the council had to find from their waiting list.’

Four applicants - including Falana - ended up buying the properties at a reduced price as a result of their deception using the Government’s ‘Right To Buy’ scheme. These properties are now likely to be subject to county court proceedings to determine whether they should be handed back.

Oyedele a former assistant to the Nigerian High Commissioner, is refusing to leave his Bermondsey flat, the court heard.

Falana obtained a four bedroom property in central London after previously being rejected for homeless housing due to her children not having indefinite leave to remain in the UK. She bought it in 2007 at a £60,000 discount under the Right to Buy scheme.

Olaiya used three ‘bogus’ children to help further his claim along with a fake passport when he was unlawfully in the country after previously been deported.

Oyedele was found to have ‘considerable funds’ in his bank account and did not have indefinite leave to remain in the UK and no evidence was ever found that he had any real children.

Awotiwon purchased a flat in Southwark, with a mortgage in 2004 for around £172,000 which she was letting out while claiming to need homeless housing. She received £226,000 of housing over a 12 year period and is refusing to leave. Mr Goodwin said she was essentially ‘a landlord while claiming to be homeless’.

The court also heard that Ali-Balogun herself had previously applied for a council home as a result of domestic violence.

Operation Bronze started in 2011 and was based on the review of suspicious data matches from the Cabinet Office’s National Fraud Initiative (NFI) and the Metropolitan Police Operation Amberhill. So far 30 fraudsters have been convicted and 41 properties have been recovered and re-let to those with a genuine need for housing.

Ali-Balogun was found guilty of misconduct in public office. Awotiwon, of Southwark; Oyedele, of Bermondsey; and Falana, of Walworth, were each convicted of a single count of obtaining services by deception. Olaiya, of Gillingham, Kent, was found guilty of attempting to obtain services by deception.

Jailing Ali-Balogun for five years Judge Mark Bishop said: ‘You carried out these applications in such a way to make it look like you had carried out the correct procedures. Social housing, in particular in central London, is scarce. People wait in the queue for many years for council accommodation. By your misconduct you reduced the housing amount of available housing stock for genuine homeless applicants.’

When no housing was available the council had to place those looking for a home in B&B accomodation leaving the local taxpayer to foot the bill, said Judge Bishop. ‘You carried out this conduct for backhand and the jury found you were dishonest. You would not have processed any of these applications which were being made without this money. It seems to me very likely that you were paid more than £20,000. You would not have done it without being paid for it. This was a very serious abuse of public trust that was placed in you. You took advantage of your position as a public official. You conduct was serious and corrupt, it was not conduct for a public official to engage in.’


5 May 2016

Holidaying on benefits

A benefit cheat who fiddled about £40,000 in benefits enjoyed holidays to Egypt and Tenerife at taxpayers' expense before she was caught out, a court heard. (h/t Dave)

Lying Kirsty Trotter said that her partner was not living with her – but he opened the door to investigators in pyjamas and dressing gown.

The 27-year-old pocketed a swathe of benefits by claiming she was a single mum of two, Plymouth Crown Court heard. But she went on two family holidays to Tenerife and one to Egypt using her partner's money.

Judge Ian Lawrie sent Trotter to the cells briefly but handed her a suspended prison sentence. He added: "You are a good mother. I do not see why I should impose a sentence upon your two children for your dishonesty."

The court heard that Trotter was in and out of a relationship with Dustin White over the period. They have since split up. Their child was born during the time she was claiming benefit as a single woman.

Judge Lawrie said: "Her personal relationships are of no concern to this court. She should have been honest." Trotter, from Kings Tamerton, pleaded guilty to six counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting a benefit claim. She admitted two similar charges of failing to disclose information.

Julia Cox, prosecuting for the Department for Work and Pensions, said Trotter dishonestly pocketed income support, housing benefit, council tax relief and child tax credits from May until November 2010 and again between November 2011 and January 2014. Miss Cox said that Trotter only admitted falsely claiming benefit during the earlier period and from June 2012 to January 2014. The court heard that she was either overpaid £37,802 or £45,377, depending on the period.

She was certainly industrious in claiming benefits.

Miss Cox said she was paid the benefits as a single mother – but at times she was living with Mr White, who was working. She added that Trotter filled in forms every year saying that her circumstances had not changed.

Miss Cox said that her home was kept under surveillance and investigators found evidence that they were living together, for example having joint insurance on a car. She added that when officials knocked on her door they were answered by Mr White wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown.

Miss Cox said: "Text messages were found on mobile phones which showed an ongoing intimate relationship between them."

The court heard that investigators found the family had been on two holidays to Tenerife and one to Egypt. She said Mr White may have paid for the trips from his wages but the benefits were saving him from spending the money running the household.

Ali Rafati, for Trotter, said she was unlikely to appear before a criminal court again. He added that she was now working part-time and still receiving benefits. Mr Rafati said she was already paying back the cash she owed at a rate of £180 a month, which will take more than a decade.

Judge Lawrie handed Trotter a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered her to carry out 50 hours of unpaid work.