A teaching assistant who swindled almost £80,000 in state handouts will spend Christmas in jail after a judge warned benefits cheats to expect more than 'a slap on the wrist'.
Mother-of-three Maliha Parveen was previously convicted of scamming £12,000 from the taxpayer and given a community order - but began over-claiming just three years later.
The former council worker, 65, claimed a range of handouts while working at Redwood secondary school in Rochdale.
She called on the judge to spare her a jail term, insisting one of her daughters is in an abusive arranged marriage and another is unwell. But Judge Jonathan Foster QC handed her an eight-month sentence, hitting out at cheats who think they can get away with it.
He said: 'This is not the first time this has happened and the long and short of it is you haven't learnt your lesson from last time. Benefit fraud is a prevalent offence and people think they can get away with it because they will only get a slap on the wrist. This money is intended for the provision of community services and paid for by every citizen like me and all the other people in court. You must know that not only from your conviction but also from your background.'
The judge added: 'The most important thing is for you to realise and for the public to realise that these offences will be punished by immediate imprisonment, whatever the mitigation.'
Julian Goode prosecuting said: 'Claims forms have tick box questions and she ticked 'no' to confirm she was not in employment. Yet she was working for Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council since 2004 and since September 2008 she was working as a teaching assistant at Redwood school which is for students with learning disabilities. Between 2008 and 2009 she was working 10 hours a week and between October 2009 and September 2015 she was working 15 hours a week. She was on average £8.43 per hour. The duration of the fraud was 409 weeks and four days. She was interviewed and accepted the claims were dishonest, claiming she did it due to the financial pressure she was under at the time.'
The court heard Parveen had started claiming benefits in 2000 over a string of medical complaints including angina, high blood pressure, arthritis, high cholesterol and depression.
In 2008 she got a job at the school - which helps pupils with learning difficulties - but failed to notify DWP that there had been a reduction in mobility restrictions and care needs. From December 2007 to September 2012 she made false representations in relation to Income Support, where she failed to disclose she was working and between September 2012 to October 2015 she pocketed Employment Support Allowance.
Income Support fraudulently obtained was £13,852, Disability Living Allowance was £14,908, Employment Support Allowance was for £12,781, Council Tax benefits was for £2,424 and Housing Benefits totally £35,319.
Parvenn, who admitted benefit fraud charges, wept as the judge passed sentence. In mitigation defence counsel William Staunton, said his client had passed British citizenship tests and her family were paying back the stolen money at £150 per week.