An HMRC worker who scammed her own bosses out of £65,000 after lying to them about her marriage has been jailed.
Nicola Farningham, 39, from Dundee, was jailed for 21 weeks at Dundee Sheriff Court after admitting benefit fraud. The court heard she committed the offence right under the noses of benefit bosses at HMRC’s call centre.
Farningham was employed as a tax credit advisor, giving the public advice about their eligibility for working and child tax credits. She then used this knowledge to create her own fraudulent scheme, which she conducted for nine years, claiming thousands in tax credits.
Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson said: “The accused declared she was single in 2005 and in all reviews she claimed there was no change in her circumstances. She declared her annual household income was between £7,253 and £15,111, which was her income from HMRC. An investigation revealed she had married Paul Farningham in 2007 and they had four children together.”
The couple had opened a joint bank account in 2004 and had a joint mortgage for a home they bought in 2005.
Surveillance was carried out on the property and Mr Farningham was seen coming and going and using a key.
In 2014 the home was raided and investigating officers found correspondence for Mr Farningham inside, including wage slips and Valentine’s Day cards from Mrs Farningham.
The court heard none of the money Farningham claimed from HMRC has been repaid but today at court she offered £40,410. Where did that come from?
Solicitor Kevin Hampton, defending, said: “She and her husband had a very unconventional marriage — they never lived together and more often than not he was elsewhere. She knew she should have brought this to the attention of the Department of Work and Pensions. This was not to fund an extravagant lifestyle, it was simply to pay bills.”
Farningham admitted fraudulently claiming child and working tax credits.
Sheriff Carmichael said: “This is a sad and familiar tale but ultimately it’s a fraud on the public purse and taxpayer, and I’ve come to the conclusion there is no other sentence other than one of imprisonment.”