31 Jul 2013

Benefits cheat who lived life of luxury must repay £32,000

A convicted benefit cheat who swindled the State out of £104,000 while breeding horses and living in a 20-room mansion has been ordered to pay back £32,000.

Helen Gough had admitted four counts of benefit fraud and must now repay £32,000 within 18 months.

The 47-year-old claimed the cash over a 10-year period, most of which she spent living in an affluent country hamlet.

During this time, Gough raised thoroughbred Arabian horses, exporting some to Germany and making trips to the Middle East. She also bred dogs and Burmese cats.

Gough admitted four counts of benefit fraud, amounting to £104,299, and was jailed in November for two years.

On July 19, at a proceeds of crime hearing, Derby Crown Court heard that the amount available to be repaid was £32,000.

She was given 18 months to do this. If she does not, the court heard how she could be jailed again for up to 15 months.

When Gough was sentenced, she denied she was breeding animals as a business and said it was her hobby, which was accepted by Department of Work and Pensions investigators.

But prosecutor Rhona Campbell said Gough lived a life of “luxury and indulgence” while claiming the benefits.

Also at the sentencing, Judge Andrew Hamilton said it was the worst case of benefit fraud he had ever seen. “It was entirely based on greed and determination to fund your hobby”.

He had never heard of anyone claiming benefits so they could breed Arabian horses.

The court heard then how Gough had “finance and capital” herself, before meeting an “affluent businessman” and moving into his “substantial property” in Wheatcroft, a hamlet near Matlock.

In 2000, she sold a house for just short of £80,000 but told the authorities she was living in a rented property.

Investigators had calculated that from 2003, when Gough moved into 20-room Wheatcroft House in the village, she must have spent £44,000 on the hobby of breeding horses and whippets.

Evidence was obtained from the Arab Horse Society confirming that the horses owned and bred by Gough were registered with them.

The Kennel Club confirmed Gough had registered 162 whippets with them.

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