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18 Feb 2014

No prison for "disabled" £100k benefit cheat mother

A benefits cheat who pocketed around £100,000 in disability allowances claiming she was 'virtually immobile' has been caught on film trampolining.

Sonia Mellor, 33, falsely claimed a raft of benefits on the basis that she was a housebound single parent, exaggerating her condition in order to qualify for the higher rate of Disability Living Allowance.

The mother-of-three also failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that her partner David Walker, who was working, had moved into her home - allowing her to pocket Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit.

She was caught following a three month long surveillance operation of her home in Worsley, Greater Manchester after an investigation was launched in July 2011.

It took two and a half years to conclude this in court.

The court was played surveillance footage filmed by investigators, which showed Mellor walking her children to school and taking them shopping.

When police seized her laptop and phone following her arrest on January 5, 2012, they were shocked to discover home videos which showed her trampolining at a party in 2010.

Earlier that year, Mellor had filled out a self-assessment form claiming she would be in severe discomfort when walking short distances and needed walking aids.

She claimed she spent all day in bed and needed 24 hour care to help her with everyday tasks.

Sentencing Mellor at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Andrew Blake said:
You do have some serious disabilities which are long-standing, but you have exaggerated them. You pretended that your worst days were every day. The public will be outraged by the sorts of claims you have made and you will be pursued relentlessly in the civil courts for repayments of that money.
The court heard that Mellor, who suffers from epilepsy, arthritis, depression and anxiety, was entitled to some DLA but falsely claimed around £30,000 more than she would have qualified for, by exaggerating her condition.

By failing to notify the department about a change in her circumstances when her partner moved in in May 2008, meaning she was no longer a single parent, Mellor was given around £75,000 in Income Support, Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit which she wasn’t entitled to.

David Potter, prosecuting, read out a number of text messages sent by Mellor to her partner in August 2010 which said: 'Thanks for putting the bins out. I shouldn’t be putting them out in case someone is watching.'

Another read: 'I have grafted my a*** off today. Our bedroom is spotless, the kid’s bedroom is spotless and the bathrooms are.'

Another said: 'Listen, I might have to buy a wheelchair and give you the money back. I have been reading about visitors and they can send a letter and come the following day. I need to start getting prepared. Just going to lay it on major thick.'

She also falsely claimed around £85,000 in income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit over four years by saying she was a single mother. In fact, she and her children lived with her partner David Walker, a TV engineer.

The court was read texts between the pair in which Mellor discussed misleading disability assessors and ‘getting prepared’ for a visit. One mentioned buying a wheelchair, adding: ‘At least I can wear it out a little in case they visit. Don’t want it looking brand new. I need to get the wheels dirty. Ha ha.’

Mellor, who was joined in court by members of her family, wept throughout the two-hour hearing.

She was sentenced to 12 months in prison, suspended for 18 months and given a 12-month supervision order plus a four-month curfew.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There was another case in Manchester recently where a 'single' parent pleaded guilty to not declaring her partner living with her. She walked away with a suspended sentence too.

She is back on JSA as a single person.