27 May 2014

Mother escapes jail for benefit fraud

A husband who said he had walked out of his wedding reception has been jailed after he and his supposedly estranged wife claimed more than £100,000 in benefits claiming she was a lone parent.

Mum-of-five Lesley Isobel Jones fiddled more than £108,000 in benefits over ten years by claiming she was a single mum.

She has avoided an immediate term in prison but Judge Keith Thomas said the only reason she was avoiding being jailed immediately was her children. Judge Thomas said her 15 month sentence would be suspended for two years.

But he said she would also have to complete 300 hours of unpaid work. Her husband is beginning an immediate 15 month sentence after their claims they had separated before cutting the cake were “wholly rejected” by the jury.

Thomas Jones, aged 52, said when he left the reception in 2000, he didn’t see his wife again for two weeks. He also claimed they hadn’t living together until 2011, but prosecutor Paul Hobson said the evidence against the couple was overwhelming because her husband had his wages sent to her address in Landore, Swansea, the TV licence was in his name, they had a joint bank account and he paid the bills.

During trial at Swansea Crown Court, the jury were told the 50-year-old Lesley Jones took her family on holidays to Turkey, Sharm el Sheikh and Spain while claiming income support, employment support, tax credits and council tax relief. She drove a personalised BMW and bought a £27,000 luxury caravan berthed in a seaside holiday park.

An expert told the trial that during one period she received £79,308 in benefits but spent £190,721. The jury heard that Lesley Jones may have got away with a greater amount of benefits because she had been claiming since 1996, but Department for Work and Pensions records only go back to 2002. The judge, sitting at Swansea Crown Court, was also told she might have been entitled to £50,000 in tax credits during the period, if she had been working.

Thomas Jones had lost his job with Royal Mail after receiving a four month suspended sentence for stealing mail.

The pair had tried to hide their faces after appearing at court, Lesley Jones pulled her clothes over her face but Thomas Jones donned a mask to avoid being photographed.

Judge Thomas said:
You worked together to hide the fact he was working and you were married and living as a couple. Each of you knew what the other was doing. It is a serious offence, benefits are there for people who genuinely need them.

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