A gran has been jailed in tears after claiming almost £97,000 in benefits she wasn’t entitled to.
For 13 years, Margaret Elliott failed to declare she was no longer a single parent and was living with her partner as husband and wife.
A court heard she received a total overpayment of £96,908.19 and it will take her around 30 years to pay it back at £100 a month.
Now, the sobbing 53-year-old has been locked up for six months, amid wails of despair from her daughters in the public gallery at Newcastle Crown Court.
Recorder John Thackray told her: “Your false claims have deprived the community of much needed public money. From 2002 you made false claims because you didn’t declare you were living with your partner and you made numerous dishonest representations over the years. It will take 30 years to repay.
“I take into account you are not in good health and the references which speak so well of you and I accept you are genuinely remorseful. The offences are so serious only an immediate custodial sentence can be justified.”
The court heard Elliott’s claim for benefits began legitimately in the 1990s, when she started claiming on the basis she was a lone parent and was incapacitated.
Lee Fish, prosecuting, said: “However she has received benefits to which she was not entitled because she was claiming on the basis of being a single parent. She failed to disclose that from August 2002 to February 2015 she was in fact living with her partner, who was in employment for various periods of time.
“The defendant was interviewed in February 2015 and there were some provisional denials but she went on to admit she had been living with this man for this period of time. The total overpayment is £96,908.19, she’s currently repaying this at £100 a month and it’s estimated it will take about 30 years to clear this debt.”
Elliott, from Felling, Gateshead, pleaded guilty to six benefit fraud charges and was jailed for six months.
Alec Burns, defending, said: “There are references which show what type of person she usually is, apart from this. When I first met this lady the first words she said were, ‘I did wrong, I’m really sorry’ and she started crying. She has shown genuine remorse. She suffers from clinical depression and this has made it worse.
“There were periods when her partner did not live with her and he did not work all the time but he did work most of the time. He works as a warehouse packer of frozen foods so didn’t earn a lot of money. She received disability living allowance and would have been entitled to some benefits but clearly not the amount she has received.
“She has three daughters and has not told her grandchildren, who she looks after when their parents go to work.”