A benefit cheat who swindled the taxpayer out of almost £40,000 by repeatedly claiming she was a single parent living alone has been spared jail.
Bolton Crown Court heard that Carly Howarth initially made a legitimate claim for tax credits as a single mum, but then, in October 2012 she failed to disclose that she was living with her partner.
Chloe Fordham, prosecuting, said 27-year-old Howarth filled in a form again claiming she was not part of a couple and repeated the assertion in three phone conversations with the authorities. Her deception, failing to reveal she was living with Scott Burns, continued until July last year and meant she was paid a total of £39,232.41 she was not entitled to.
Howarth, from Ainsworth, pleaded guilty to dishonestly failing to disclose information.
Mark Friend, defending, said Howarth, who has children aged 10 and three, had not been dishonest from the outset, is remorseful and accepts she will have to repay the money. He added that she is in rent arrears on her shared ownership home, which will probably have to be sold and stressed that the payments wrongly made to her were not spent on a lavish lifestyle. “She is a hard-working, socially responsible, decent young woman in every other respect,” he said.
Sentencing her to six months in prison, suspended for 18 months, Judge Elliot Knopf told her: “There are strict rules to ensure to ensure they [benefits] go to people who qualify for these benefits. It is not a bottomless purse. It is crucial that people understand that if they are tempted to break the rules, as you were, they will be taken to court. There is no getting away from it – you knowingly and repeatedly made false statements to the authorities.”
In addition to the suspended prison sentence Howarth was told she must undertake 120 hours unpaid work and complete a rehabilitation activity programme. A proceeds of crime hearing will take place in court on October 26 in an attempt to reclaim the money from Howarth.