Statcounter

24 Oct 2017

Easy benefit fraud

A mum who swindled more than £75,000 in tax credits to splash out on plastic surgery and luxury American holidays to Las Vegas and Florida has been jailed for two years. (h/t Fraudmanager)

Tammy Gunter, 41, from Cefn Fforest, wrongly claiming tax credits by saying she was single – when she was secretly married to the father of her two children.

A court heard Gunter and her husband Neil Hart, 45, lived a “lavish” lifestyle after wrongly claiming taxpayers’ money.

Prosecutor Nuhu Gobir said Gunter was granted tax credits by saying she was a single mum – and also made false claims for student finance and a £2,000 NHS bursary to train as a nurse.

The court heard the couple splurged the money on holidays to Vegas and Florida in 2011 and 2013 – and took out a US$30,000 loan for a holiday home in the US.

Mr Gobir told the court Gunter also travelled to Eastern Europe to undergo cosmetic plastic surgery.

He said: “She’s also known by her married name, Tammy Hart, and she uses her maiden name in her dealings with public bodies. The defendants were already in a relationship and had been living together as a family since December 5, 1997.”

He said Gunter claimed tax credits for nine years when she was working part-time in a shop and a garage.

Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court heard Gunter even forged a letter purporting to be from HMRC.

Mr Gobir said: “Tammy Gunter made a claim that she was a single person working at least 16 hours per week. She stated that she had two children and no other income. The defendant dishonestly maintained she was single. She enjoyed a lavish lifestyle.”

Gunter was handed £76,008.63 in tax credits between 2007 and 2016.

The court heard she also made fraudulent claims for student funding and an NHS bursary of £2,193 by saying she lived alone, when really she lived with Hart.

Mr Gobir said: “She stated that she was separated and was a single parent with two dependent children. Neil Hart lied about his address to assist Tammy Gunter with the application. The total loss to the public purse in effect is £87,450.”

The court heard that in 2014, Gunter sent a letter to Caerphilly County Borough Council purporting to be on HMRC-headed paper. But council officials became suspicious because it had a number of spelling errors.

The DWP, HMRC and the HS Counter Fraud Service Wales began a joint investigation in January 2015 and Gunter and Hart were arrested.

Gunter admitted being knowingly concerned in fraudulent activity undertaken with a view to obtaining tax credits, one count of forgery and four counts of fraud.

Byron Broadstock, defending Gunter, said the couple had a “tumultuous” relationship.

He said: “Many of the purchases that have been described as extravagant, they are out of the ordinary. They were often gestures in reconciliation.”

He said the plastic surgery “wasn’t simply for purely cosmetic reasons. It was psychological reasons.”

Hart admitted encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence, believing it would be committed.

Jeffrey Jones, defending Hart, said: “He allowed himself to be used in that by making one gesture, in relation to one matter – his own address.”

Gunter was jailed for two years, while her husband was jailed for six months.

Judge Peter Heywood told the couple: “That fraud occurred over a significant period of time. There was a degree of sophistication and planning involved.”

Speaking to Gunter, he said: “You have engaged in a significant course of dishonest conduct for a considerable period of time.”

To her husband he said: “You foolishly, Mr Hart, went along by providing false information, knowing full well what the full situation was.”

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