A woman who claimed she was single and her estranged partner was only sleeping in a car in the driveway (!) has been sentenced for benefit fraud. (h/t Dave)
Melanie Fincham's claims were fraudulent from the outset and she pocketed £39,301, Nottingham Crown Court heard. She had claimed she was a lone parent, single, and had no other income - when her estranged partner was actually living with her.
Fraud investigators began to delve into her background. She had claimed her other half worked away in the week and returned at weekends, and parked his car in their driveway and slept in the car.
Prosecutor Duncan Craig said when she was asked why he did not stay with relatives on the same street, the reply was that they "did not get on". "She acknowledged she did his washing, not his ironing, and acknowledged he did some gardening," he said. "She said they were estranged and not in a relationship."
Despite Fincham's claims, she went on to admit four allegations of fraud.
Mr Craig told the court - where Fincham received 18 months in prison, suspended for 18 months - that she fraudulently claimed more than £4,000 in income support; more than £6,000 in Job Seeker's Allowance; and failed to declare a change in her circumstances between May 2, 2012, and April 13, 2015, regarding £15,047.99 in Employment Support Allowance, housing benefit to the tune of £16,594.54, and council tax worth more than £2,000.
The Department for Work and Pensions had received intelligence on June 7, 2014, that she was cohabiting with her estranged partner.
Fincham, who was of previous good character, was living at two addresses in Devon Road in Newark, he said. Two vehicles – a silver Land Rover Discovery and a white Ford Transit - both registered to her partner, were parked outside one of the addresses in Devon Road. He was paying the TV Licence, a Virgin Media account and had a bank account registered to his name at one of the addresses.
Mr Craig, referring to the sentencing guidelines, said the fraud was over a sustained period – five years – and was fraudulent from the outset.
Sarah Munro, mitigating, told the court the defendant was repaying the money. "To lose your character at 46 in such a dramatic way is something Mrs Fincham is deeply upset about," she said. "She has lost a lot. She tells me in law she appreciates she has done wrong. Initially she was not with her partner. For five days a week he was away. They were not in a relationship."
Recorder Martine Kushner said: "The reality is you received money for board from your estranged husband while you were not in a relationship." She said she had taken into account Fincham's plea of guilty, her loss of character and she that was repaying the money.