5 May 2016

Holidaying on benefits

A benefit cheat who fiddled about £40,000 in benefits enjoyed holidays to Egypt and Tenerife at taxpayers' expense before she was caught out, a court heard. (h/t Dave)

Lying Kirsty Trotter said that her partner was not living with her – but he opened the door to investigators in pyjamas and dressing gown.

The 27-year-old pocketed a swathe of benefits by claiming she was a single mum of two, Plymouth Crown Court heard. But she went on two family holidays to Tenerife and one to Egypt using her partner's money.

Judge Ian Lawrie sent Trotter to the cells briefly but handed her a suspended prison sentence. He added: "You are a good mother. I do not see why I should impose a sentence upon your two children for your dishonesty."

The court heard that Trotter was in and out of a relationship with Dustin White over the period. They have since split up. Their child was born during the time she was claiming benefit as a single woman.

Judge Lawrie said: "Her personal relationships are of no concern to this court. She should have been honest." Trotter, from Kings Tamerton, pleaded guilty to six counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting a benefit claim. She admitted two similar charges of failing to disclose information.

Julia Cox, prosecuting for the Department for Work and Pensions, said Trotter dishonestly pocketed income support, housing benefit, council tax relief and child tax credits from May until November 2010 and again between November 2011 and January 2014. Miss Cox said that Trotter only admitted falsely claiming benefit during the earlier period and from June 2012 to January 2014. The court heard that she was either overpaid £37,802 or £45,377, depending on the period.

She was certainly industrious in claiming benefits.

Miss Cox said she was paid the benefits as a single mother – but at times she was living with Mr White, who was working. She added that Trotter filled in forms every year saying that her circumstances had not changed.

Miss Cox said that her home was kept under surveillance and investigators found evidence that they were living together, for example having joint insurance on a car. She added that when officials knocked on her door they were answered by Mr White wearing pyjamas and a dressing gown.

Miss Cox said: "Text messages were found on mobile phones which showed an ongoing intimate relationship between them."

The court heard that investigators found the family had been on two holidays to Tenerife and one to Egypt. She said Mr White may have paid for the trips from his wages but the benefits were saving him from spending the money running the household.

Ali Rafati, for Trotter, said she was unlikely to appear before a criminal court again. He added that she was now working part-time and still receiving benefits. Mr Rafati said she was already paying back the cash she owed at a rate of £180 a month, which will take more than a decade.

Judge Lawrie handed Trotter a six-month prison sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered her to carry out 50 hours of unpaid work.


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