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6 Aug 2015

Light sentence for £32k benefit thief

A benefits cheat has been forced to borrow more than £32,000 from family and friends to pay off money she fraudulently claimed, a court heard.

Tracy Mullins, from Bacup, conned the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) out of the sum after failing to declare she was living with her partner over a six-year period. She enjoyed trips to the Dominican Republic, Jamaica and Tenerife.

At this week’s sentencing the mum-of-two was given an eight-month jail term, suspended for two years, and ordered to pay £600 costs.

Burnley Crown Court heard that she has now repaid all the money after borrowing sums of between £2,000 and £10,000 each from family and friends.

Nick Flanaghan, prosecuting, told the court that she had been claiming income support from 2004 to 2012 on the basis of her illness, inability to work and having no partner in the house. But the court heard that she started living with her partner Steven Mullins from 2006 onwards and failed to inform the DWP.

An investigation later unearthed documents showing the two were living together in the same house, Mr Mullins had a television licence and had given the address to the Land Registry when buying other properties.

Mr Flanagan told the court that Tracy Mullins had owned the house since 2006 after paying £36,000 with no mortgage ‘despite having been in receipt of means-tested benefits for some time’.

The court heard that a bank account and passports were also investigated and revealed a £1,300 trip to Tenerife in 2012 and further trips to Jamaica in 2010 and the Dominican Republic in 2012. Mullins was interviewed twice by police following her arrest in January 2014 and initially denied the offences.

Mullins pleaded guilty to two counts of dishonestly failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits including income support and one count of dishonestly failing to disclose information.

Keith Harrison, defending, said: “She has borrowed money from at least five family members or close associates so she is not escaping scot-free.”

Judge Andrew Woolman said: “All of the money has been repaid and there are not many benefit fraud cases where that can be said.”

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