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7 Sep 2018

Lying benefit fraud mother jailed

A former businesswoman who claimed more than £80,000 in benefits after falsely saying she was a single mother has finally been jailed when she jetted off to Tenerife after being ordered to do community service. (h/t Dave)

Mother-of-two, Nicola Alcock, 41, was arrested after she landed back in the UK, several weeks ago.

Alcock claimed she had gone to the Spanish island to raise some money after a proceeds of crime hearing, Preston Crown Court was told.

The former criminology student was given the four month sentence by Judge Andrew Woolman on Monday after breaching the suspended jail term she had been given at Burnley Crown Court in January last year.

Alcock admitted benefit fraud charges between December 15, 2008 and and April 21, 2015, and was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for two years, with 150 hours unpaid work.

Alcock was already serving 91 days in custody in default, after an earlier proceeds of crime hearing. She will serve the sentences concurrently.

And she had claimed to a court she was jobless and broke when she got a speeding fine cut from £220 to £40 in February last year, just weeks after being handed the suspended sentence.

In January last year, Burnley Crown Court was told how Alcock claimed child tax credits and housing benefit over a five year period after telling the authorities she was living alone with her two children.

But her lies were unmasked after Alcock advertised her services on the Barking Mad dog sitting service - and wrote about her happy marriage and family life.

An investigation revealed she married trucker Gerard Thornton in 2008 but failed to mention the wedding to the authorities

DWP officials were alerted to the organisation's website on which Alcock posed in a Barking Mad polo shirt and spoke about her happy family life at home in Earby, Lancashire with husband Gerard Thornton.

In her promotional blurb she wrote: 'I am proud to be the Barking Mad representative in Keighley and surrounding areas. I live in Earby with my husband Gez and 2 children. So as you can see not only am I animal mad but being Barking Mad helps too!'

An investigation revealed she married trucker Mr Thornton in 2008 but failed to mention the wedding to the authorities.

Despite being confronted with the evidence she continued to deny being married and only confessed when she was shown her marriage certificate.

Calculations revealed she was overpaid tax credits totalling £58,721.91 and housing benefit in the sum of £22,856.29. The total overpayment was £81,578.20.

Julian Goode, prosecuting, said Alcock initially made a legitimate claim for tax credits on January 17, 2006, on the basis she was single, with dependent children. She also made an application for housing benefit, on October 3, 2008.

But Mr Goode added: 'Matters altered on 13 December, 2008 when she married Gerard Thornton and thereafter maintained a common household with him. The change in circumstances would have affected her entitlement to benefits and she failed to notify the authorities.'

DWP investigators uncovered various documents confirming Alcock and Mr Thornton were living together including a Nationwide Building Society personal loan, bank and insurance documents.

Mr Goode said: 'She initially said the relationship started in 2009. Of course, we know the marriage was in 2008. She said Mr Thornton only stayed over if her daughter was at her father's house. She was later shown her marriage certificate and accepted she had been dishonest.'

In mitigation defence lawyer Richard Dawson said Alcock was currently out of work, adding: 'That's primarily because she didn't want to take up employment only to lose her liberty and leave. She is keen to rejoin the workforce and gain stability in her life.'

The court heard Alcock was being treated for depression but had led an 'honest life'.

Sentencing at the time, Judge Mr Recorder Simon Hilton had told her: 'There is no doubt that this behaviour is of a gravity which crosses the custody threshold. A suspended sentence order is justified notwithstanding the gravity of the offences. Everything I have read about you suggests this behaviour is out of character for you and, more importantly, is wholly unlikely to be repeated in the future.'

Source with pictures

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