Now investigators have made it crystal clear to Amanda Barrymore that despite avoiding a year jail term, all money she swindled will have to be paid back.
Barrymore, 62, from Stanway, boasts on one of her Facebook accounts of being a “self-confessed Spiritual Workaholic”. Her website also details how her 36 years of work have taken her abroad to give people one-to-one readings or public demonstrations.
Barrymore also says online how she has a spiritual guide called 'Patrick' who was a 19th Century Catholic priest. "We work well together as I am a 'say it as it is' and a ‘very upfront and no frills’ type of Medium," she writes. But benefit fraud investigators discovered she’d been not so upfront when it came to pretending to be jobless.
Her fraud came to light following a Department for Work and Pensions exercise. Investigators contacted telemarketing companies to obtain details of their employees and sub-contactors.
Barrymore admitted to magistrates she had been claiming housing benefit and council tax for four years up to July 2014. The court was told Jobseekers' Allowance and Employment and Support Allowance were wrongfully claimed in January and September 2010. Magistrates gave Barrymore a year-long suspended jail term, community work for 180 hours and a £165 bill for various court charges.
Gordon Collins, of the Fraud and Error Service at the Department for Work and Pensions said: “I can confirm that DWP have recently successfully prosecuted Amanda Barrymore for failing to declare that she was working as a clairvoyant. This meant that she was not entitled to the benefits that she had been claiming leading to the overpaid benefit which you have details of."
He added the DWP will directly recover from Barrymore the £26,711.44 owed to the taxpayer.
I cannot disclose what specific arrangements have been agreed as this would constitute revealing personal information but I can confirm that recovery of tax payers’ money will take place either by payments of lump sums or by regular repayments until all of the monies are repaid – this is the case for all of these types of recovery of fraudulent claims to benefit. We would have considered using the Proceeds of Crime Act to recover this money but there are no assets that we can legally seize.Repayment arrangements should be revealed in the public interest. So should any failures to keep to plans.
"The DWP do have a help line where members of the public can leave details of individuals who they suspect of committing benefit fraud – details can be left anonymously and are treated in the strictest of confidence. All such referrals are looked at and acted on where evidence is found that benefit fraud is taking place." The number for the National Benefit Fraud Hotline is 0800 854 440.
Barrymore's website describes how she has been interviewed by the press, including psychic magazines, radio and television. But Barrymore did not respond to the Daily Gazette when it left a message for her at her flat yesterday.
Is it just me, or is there something bizarre about a clairvoyant needing glasses?