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3 Apr 2013

Mother with children not jailed for £31k fraud

A benefit cheat who claimed more than £30,000 in fraudulent claims over a period of three-and-a-half years has been spared jail.

Donnella Subham, from Winterton, admitted three counts of fraud by false representation and a further three of dishonestly failing to disclose information at a hearing at North Lincolnshire Magistrates' Court.

The court heard how Subham falsely claimed a total of £31,307 between December 2008 and May 2012 – a case North Lincolnshire Council claims is "one of its biggest".

She was jailed for 18 weeks, suspended for two years. She will also have to complete 250 hours unpaid work and eight Specific For Women sessions.

Julie O'Donnell, prosecuting, said Subham fraudulently claimed £11,729 in income support benefit, £16,005 in housing benefit, £2,702 in council tax and £869 in single residency discount.

She said Subham made a claim in February 2008 when she moved here from Leeds.

It was then in December of 2008 that her former partner moved in with her at the Winterton address.

However, Subham continued to make the benefit claims, failing to notify North Lincolnshire Council and the DWP of the changes.

Mrs O'Donnell said that her house was visited by officers in October 2009, July 2010 and July 2011. On all three occasions Subham claimed to be living at the address on her own. An allegation that her partner was living at the address was then made.

An investigation found her partner was registered as living in Leeds on the birth certificate of their child – an address that was found to have been repossessed in 2007.

In interview, Subham said she had been withdrawing the money to pay for her rent but it was found she was using it to purchase household items.

Mrs O'Donnell told the court that the £16,005 falsely claimed in housing benefit was currently being recovered at the rate of £17.75.

Ian Haywood, mitigating, said Subham made full and frank admissions.
When the claim was first made it was completely accurate and was not fraudulent from the outset.

She does not seek me to make excuses. She was not using the money to live a lavish lifestyle, on flash cars or on foreign holidays, it was used to support her and her four children in that house.

She did not commit fraud to live the high life or make things better for her.
Mr Haywood said that any period of imprisonment would have a detrimental effect on Subham and her four children, the youngest being one.

Mr Haywood also said this was Subham's first offence.

Chairman of the magistrates, Sue Fry, said:
Although this was not fraudulent from the outset this did take place over a long period of time and of high value. This does cross the threshold for imprisonment but we are prepared to suspend that period.
Councillor Neil Poole, Cabinet Member for Policy and Resources at North Lincolnshire Council, said:
This case came to light through our confidential fraud hotline and this enabled a joint investigation by the council and Department for Work and Pensions to get underway.

The fraud team do an excellent job in tracking down and investigating fraudsters and the public play a vital role in that process. We encourage anyone who suspects fraud to contact us. You can rest assured, the information you share with us will be treated in confidence and you don’t have to give us your name.

We will continue to do all we can to tackle fraud and ensure that people act within the law.

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