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7 Apr 2016

Benefit fraud judgement sends clear message

An Angus mother-of-three who fraudulently claimed £30,000 in benefits in three years has been jailed for ten months.

Zowie Tervet told the Department for Work and Pensions and Aberdeenshire council she was an unemployed single mother living alone. But a court heard she was living with her then partner, and now husband, Mark Tervet, who was in employment.

A sheriff said the fraud had been "easy to commit and expensive to detect."

It emerged that the couple were sharing joint bank accounts and that was where Mr Tervet's wages were paid into to support the family.

Depute fiscal Joanne Smith told Forfar Sheriff Court: "During reviews and when she updated other information such as her address she maintained that she was a single mother. When a DWP officer went to her home and interviewed her she claimed Mr Tervet was to move into her house later that month, in October 2013. She claimed not to be aware that his wages were paid into their joint account."

Tervet, 33, from Montrose, admitted two charges under the Social Security Administration Act. The offences were committed at addresses in St Cyrus, Aberdeenshire, and Montrose, Angus.

Defence solicitor Nick Markowski said: "This was not done to fund a lavish lifestyle. It was done to make ends meet, and sometimes they did not. She made a mistake and understands her liberty is at risk today."

Sheriff Gregor Murray said:
The appeal court has determined that in the absence of quite exceptional circumstances any gain of over £20,000 ought to attract a custodial sentence. There are no such circumstances in this case, there were three years of gain.

These crimes are easy to commit and expensive to detect.

You are otherwise a law abiding citizen, a capable mother and wife, but there has to be a deterrent.
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