31 Jul 2018

Benefit fraud investigation took years

A benefit fraudster grandmother illegally claimed more than £41,000 which she spent on luxury holidays to Egypt. (h/t Fraud Manager)

Geraldine Thomas, 54, of Bargoed , failed to notify the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Caerphilly council about a change of circumstances over a period of five years.

The defendant told the authorities she was living on her own, but her partner Raymond Adams had been living with her since 2011 and while she was claiming benefits he was working and contributing to the household income.

A sentencing hearing at Newport Crown Court heard Thomas been in a relationship with Mr Adams on and off since 2000 and had rekindled their relationship in 2011.

From that date to 2016 Thomas claimed income support worth £24,174, employment and support allowance worth £115, housing benefit worth £16,136 and council tax benefit worth ££925. The total amount of benefits which had been illegally claimed was £41,350.

Thomas used money she had illegally obtained to fund a number of luxury holidays to destinations such as Egypt for her and her partner.

An investigation was launched by the DWP and Gwent Police, who monitored Thomas and Mr Adams over a number of years and used a "search and seizure" order to enter the defendant's home and gain evidence.

After being arrested and charged Thomas later pleaded guilty to three counts of benefit fraud.

Defence barrister Kathryn Lane said her client had never been before the courts before.

She added: "[Thomas] foolishly engaged in this offending and is thoroughly ashamed and embarrassed by it. She comes to court today knowing the consequences she faces. Ms Thomas is a valued and routinely relied and depended-upon family member and a valued member of the community.

"There have been a number of bereavements of close family members recently which has had an effect on her and she has been picking up the pieces of those closest to her. This does not excuse her behaviour but she is a lady who would find it very hard in custody. She is suffering from mental ill health and physical ill health having suffered from a stroke and two hip replacements."

Addressing the mother-of-one and grandmother-of-two, Recorder Patrick Harrington QC said Thomas had done something very serious.

He said: "No mention has been made of your lifestyle and I know what the money has been spent on. It was spent on an expensive holiday wasn't it? You were not the instigator of this but you continued the relationship and you continued claiming the money for a very long time.

"Benefit fraud is rife and costs honest hardworking people a lot of money. You committed offences which aggregated more than £41,000. That is a great deal of money and it is your fault that you have found yourself in this position now."

Thomas was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will take place on November 13 to determine how much Thomas will be ordered to pay back.

After the case Donna James, senior leader for fraud in south Wales for the DWP, said: "This is a blatant act of fraud. As a department we are taking action to retrieve overpayments but also any assets amassed while the offences that have been committed were ongoing."

Source with pictures

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