A woman who claimed she could only use one arm and so needed disability benefits was caught on video dancing to a Michael Jackson song at a wedding.
But actually she was working as a masseuse after turning the top floor of her home into a massage parlour.
Now, she has been jailed for three years after a jury found she had illegally pocketed over £539,000 over an 11-year period.
Teeside Crown Court heard that the 53-year-old lived a ‘lavish’ lifestyle, with prosecution pictures showing her outside the Eiffel Tower and dancing at a glittering wedding ceremony. Milligan, who illegally claimed seven different types of benefit, was also caught splashing in the sea and riding a bike.
She sat in a wheelchair for sentencing after a GP wrote a letter claiming she did have some health problems.
Via video link, Judge Howard Crowson said: ‘It was quite incredible to see you stepping swiftly from a chair and dancing with your husband. You portrayed yourself at the trial as the victim – a person wronged.’ But he slammed her for the ‘sophisticated’ fraud, in which she even blamed her carer at one stage for the con.
Her scam was only unearthed after a whistle-blower called the benefit fraud hotline, which then sparked a lengthy investigation which lasted for over three years.
In total, Milligan claimed £539,907.43 from 2002 by claiming hardship and severe disability. But despite her suffering from some issues, evidence showed she wasn’t as frail as she’d claimed.
Despite claims she could only walk 20 metres before experiencing excruciating pain, she was snapped doing an array of physical activities. And Judge Crowson questioned why someone with such difficulty moving around would build a massage parlour on the third floor of her home at the top of ‘steep’ stairs. Despite her denial, the Judge added: ‘She was clearly running a business. She was deceiving everyone.’
At the same time, Milligan was amassing a hefty property portfolio consisting of cheap houses, which included homes in South America, Durham and Luton.
She had one Venezuelan home from the outset of her claims in 1994, the court heard, while she got others from her ex-husband.
Among her biggest deceptions was from Hammersmith and Fulham Council, which she took around £170,000 from despite not permanently residing there.
Despite defence suggestions of suspending Milligan’s jail sentence, Judge Crowson said her health wasn’t bad enough to avoid custody.
Ben Reid, from the CPS’ specialist fraud division, said: ‘While Maribel Milligan had a genuine disability and was entitled to some support, she deliberately went about claiming more than £500,000 of taxpayer’s money. Through careful analysis of the evidence, the prosecution was able to demonstrate how these fraudulent benefit claims continued over a significant period of time.’
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