8 Dec 2015

Benefits cheat betrays herself on facebook

A benefits cheat who scrounged £13,000 in handouts by posing as a single mum was caught after she bragged on Facebook that her partner was organising a family holiday.

Andrea Burton, 42, pocketed income support, housing benefit and tax credits without telling the authorities that Gary Williams, the father of her child, had moved in and they were living as husband and wife.

Investigators acting on a tip off checked Burton's Facebook and Twitter accounts to see messages saying Mr Williams was paying for a holiday.

She also posted messages about a burglary at her house in Burnley, Lancs, in which her partner's wallet had been stolen.

Inquiries revealed Mr Williams had also emailed his boss, changing his address to that of Burton's and his bank account was registered to her home, as was his passport and driving licence.

He was earning £1,700 a month and putting cash in the "family pot".

Burton admitted failing to promptly notify the Department for Work and Pensions of a change of circumstances, between September 2013 and October 2014, failing to disclose information, and failing to notify Burnley Borough Council of a change in circumstances.

She was given six weeks in jail, suspended for 12 months and ordered to pay £345 costs.

Prosecutor Alex Mann told Burnley Magistrates Court the defendant claimed benefits from 2012 and got income support, housing benefit and tax credits.

She claimed on the basis she was a single parent, with one dependent child and lived alone with no partner in the household.

The defendant stated she had no income other than child benefit.

Mrs Mann continued: "She failed to notify a change in circumstances, that Mr Williams was contributing to the family pot, and they were living as husband and wife."

Burton was interviewed and when asked about the financial aspects, at first she said Mr Williams paid for things needed for their child.

Mrs Mann said when the defendant was being investigated, the DWP looked into "all sorts of comments" on Facebook and Twitter.

In 2014 she posted her partner was organising a holiday and in June she commented on Facebook there had been a robbery, where Mr Williams' wallet had been taken from her house.

The prosecutor added: "It was not a fraud from the outset."

Nick Cassidy, defending Burton, said his client had an on/off relationship with Mr Williams, who she met in 2011.

It ended for quite a period but he moved in in 2013 when his father went to live in Wales.

The solicitor continued: "It appears now they are more like friends who share care of the child and bills, as opposed to a more conventional relationship."

Mr Cassidy said Burton was paying back the benefits money at £100 a month. He added: "She is very sorry for her actions. Through me, she formally apologises. She accepts fully it's her who made the benefits claim."


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