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3 Jun 2016

Recidivist benefit thief jailed on her 52nd birthday

A mother who cheated the state out of more than £73,000 during 12 years of benefit frauds was jailed for eight months at Gloucester Crown Court on Tuesday - her 52nd birthday.

It was the second time Deborah McMullen, from Tredworth, had defrauded the benefits system - in 2008 she had been fined for obtaining £11,000 she was not entitled to, the court heard.

She pleaded guilty to eight charges of cheating the Department of Works and Pensions and Gloucester City Council out of income support, council tax and housing benefits between March 2002 and May 2014.

Recorder Shamin Qureshi said he was unable to suspend her sentence because of the amount involved and also because of the aggravating feature that she had a previous conviction for similar offences.

Prosecutor George Threlfall said what made her claims false was that she told the DWP and council that she was a single woman with one daughter and no-one else living at home. In fact, he said, her husband Andrew was resident with her and was working for much of the time she was making the claims.

"She claimed it was just her and her daughter or herself alone," he said. "She failed to declare that her husband who was in full time employment was also living in the property."

When investigators questioned her on May 30 2014 she was "not frank" and denied she had done anything wrong, Mr Threlfall said. Her husband was interviewed on June 17 that year and he was "spinning the same sort of tale", he added.

Calculations in due course showed she had been overpaid £43,283 housing benefit, £6,613 council tax benefit, £16,303 income support and £7,479 Job Seekers Allowance.

Sarah Jenkins, defending, said she had committed the offences because although her husband was with her and sometimes earning he was a Class A drug addict and spent his money on servicing his addiction rather than giving it to her to meet household expenses.

He was now disabled and she was his principal carer, added Mrs Jenkins. His mother is also disabled and partly reliant on her, she said. "She says her life during this period has been miserable and stressful," said the solicitor, who added that there was no suggestion she had been living a lavish lifestyle.

Jailing McMullen, Recorder Qureshi told her: "It is always sad to deal with anyone on their birthday. But you will have been advised that in view of the large amount of money involved you are facing a custodial sentence. You appeared in court for similar matters in 2008 and clearly you did not learn your lesson because you carried on offending after that time."

He passed sentences totalling eight months jail.

Councillor David Norman, cabinet member for performance and resources at Gloucester City Council, said: "The city council takes fraud very seriously and we will always take on anyone we suspect of falsely claiming money they're not entitled to. In this case, the sentence fits the seriousness of the crime and I hope this acts as a deterrent to others who may be thinking of committing benefit fraud."

Source

The offences she has now admitted date from 2002. Her previous conviction was in 2008, so evidently some benefit fraud went undetected at that time.

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