A woman from Wynyard has admitted fleecing the benefits system of almost £50,000 - while her partner earned over £90,000 a year. (h/t Dave)
Estelle Clare Watson claimed £47,500 in income support, child tax credits, housing benefit and council tax benefit between 2009 and 2013.
During that period, sums totalling £160,000 were paid into three bank accounts by her partner, who is now her husband.
She was also involved in a hair and beauty business, which her partner had invested in.
Judge Shaun Morris told the 31-year-old mum-of-two today at Teesside Crown Court: “The people of this country who rely on state benefits get those because they need it to support their children - it doesn’t go on nail varnish.”
Watson, who lives on the exclusive Stockton estate where houses average £369,000, pleaded guilty to five charges of fraud.
Yvonne Taylor, prosecuting, said: “John Watson effectively invested in a business at this time, and the defendant had some involvement in the running of it.”
She claimed she did not declare the work she did because when her partner was out of the country she thought he might stop maintaining her.
Defending, Sean Grainger, said Watson was not motivated by greed.
“She wasn’t sure whether her relationship was ever going to be stable and there were times when they were splitting up and she was concerned about providing for her children,” he said. “The relationship finally stabilised after they had two children, and in February 2014 they decided to get married. She rang the benefits agency and withdrew the claim.”
They married in July 2014 and Watson was interviewed in the November when she admitted making the false claims.
“She had it hanging over her for 15 months,” said Mr Grainger. “She thinks about it every night and if she does sleep it’s the first thing she thinks about when she wakes up.”
Judge Morris said: “She should have cancelled it and reapplied but instead she just let it tick over and buried her head in the sand.”
Mr Grainger said Watson’s husband was planning to take out a loan to pay the money back but currently was working away.
The court heard he currently earns £90,000 but was on a higher salary at the time of his partner’s offending.
Judge Morris adjourned the case until March when Watson’s husband would be back in the country.
He told her: “If I can get the country’s money back then that is what I am going to do. I will see you in March.”