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3 Jun 2013

Jail for £119k benefit thief mother

A benefit fraudster was jailed for 14 months after illegally pocketing £120,000 of taxpayers money.

Tracey Pembroke, 41, from Thatcham, did not tell West Berkshire Council or the Department for Work and Pensions that she was living with her partner Marc Pembroke from 2002 to 2010. That resulted, a court heard, in her being overpaid £89,270 in housing and council tax benefit and £30,251 in income support.

Jailing Pembroke at Reading Crown Court on Friday, May 10, Judge Ian Grainger said: "The substantial aggravating feature in this case is that although not fraudulent from the outset the claims became so rapidly.

"There is also some evidence of extravagance although not on the scale one sometimes comes across. You used the benefit to fund a part-time nursing degree. That would be no justification for these appalling offences."

Pembroke paid for holidays, cars and hotel stays throughout the eight years and pretended she was a single parent to boost the amount she was being paid.

She pleaded guilty to 12 charges relating to benefit fraud, mis-representation and fortifying documents on Thursday, April 4, and Judge Grainger added:
This kind of benefit fraud is a serious social evil, it went on for eight years, the value is just under £120,000. Your counsel sensibly acknowledges that there will be a custodial sentence but urges me to suspend it.

Having considered this carefully I do not feel that that course is one I could take, given the amounts involved and the length of the fraud, despite the guilty plea and length of time since the offences.

Council finance leader, Cllr Alan Law, said:
This is a great result which reflects the severity of the crime. The council will not hesitate to take legal action to bring fraudsters to justice.

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