A benefits cheat claiming to be a single mother was caught out when investigators found a stash of items belonging to her partner at her home.
Kelly Hinnighan’s boyfriend’s football trophies and photographs were on display along with children’s pictures on the fridge with the message “hello daddy”.
The Middlesbrough mum-of-four illegally pocketed more than £46,000 in benefits between 2011 and last year, Teesside Crown Court was told yesterday.
Her solicitor, John Nixon, said her relationship was unconventional and she often did not receive support from her partner, who worked away from home. Mr Nixon told the judge, Recorder David Dobbin: “There’s no question this claim was made to support a luxurious lifestyle which is always an aggravating feature. It occurred at a time when she had to give up work, with possibly not the best support. The claim for Tax Credits was not fraudulent from the outset.”
Hinnighan, 39, from Middlesbrough, pleaded guilty to three charges of failing to notify the authorities of a change in her circumstances.
She wept with relief as she was given a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, with Probation Service supervision for 12 months.
Mr Recorder Dobbin told her: “It was a very substantial sum of money, and the offending is over a substantial period, and it crosses the custody threshold. However, I have to take into account your overall position, you pleaded guilty at he first opportunity and you are a lady who has four children. You have a part-time job, and in addition to that you are making efforts to pay off the amount that you had wrongly received. If you continue in work, you will be able to increase the regular amounts and get rid of that debt sooner.”
Prosecutor Liam O’Brien told the court that the fraud was discovered in March last year, when a search of the home showed Hinnighan’s partner was living with her.
She initially denied being dishonest and told investigators the man - with whom she has two children - was her landlord.
So she didn't own up at the first opportunity after all. And she felt she could afford four children.