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19 Sep 2017

Benefit fraudster had £80k in the bank

Benefit cheat Diane Cornes claimed nearly £10,000 worth of handouts – despite having tens of thousands of pounds in the bank.

The 62-year-old made a claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) in February 2013 and stated she had £2,550 in the bank, when she had at least £25,000 in her account. And she continued to claim benefits until December 2015 despite, at one stage, having £80,000 in the bank and never having less than £30,000.

Now Cornes, who has no previous convictions, has been handed a community order at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.

Prosecutor Peter McCartney said the defendant made a claim for ESA in February 2013. He said: “She declared she had £2,550 in the bank. However, from August 2013 she had at least £25,000. From November 2013, she had about £80,000 in the bank. That depleted with time, but was never less than £30,000 up until May 2016. If she had declared she had capital of over £6,000 it would have affected her payments. If she declared she had over £16,000 it would have prevented any benefits at all being paid. In her interview, she admitted failing to notify the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) of capital she had. The claim was fraudulent from the outset.”

The defendant was overpaid £817.31 of ESA between March 6, 2013 and November 4, 2013; £2,142.03 of Job Seeker's Allowance between November 5, 2013 and March 30, 2014; and £6,448.78 of ESA between March 31, 2014 and December 15, 2015. In total, she was overpaid £9,408.12 benefits.

Cornes, from Burslem, pleaded guilty to three offences of dishonestly failing to disclose information to make a gain for herself.

Robert Holt, mitigating, said the defendant suffers from anxiety, depression and panic attacks. He told the court: “She has become mixed up and confused and allowed personal grief to take over her and consume her. It led to her turning a blind eye.”

He added that Cornes will repay all the money.

So she hasn't yet.

Judge David Fletcher sentenced Cornes to a 12-month community order, with a rehabilitation activity requirement for 20 days and an eight-week curfew from 8pm to 6am.

He said: “When you filled these forms in to claim ESA, you knew what money you had in your bank. And let’s be clear about this, you lied. It wasn’t a mistake. It was a deliberate lie and a deliberate illegal statement made by you that was simply not true. I suspect you knew if you told them about the capital you had in the bank, you would not have received those benefits. You have ruined your good name. You are going to have to live with the consequences of criminal convictions recorded against you and the various other things that will flow from that.”

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