22 Jan 2019

Suspended sentence for £46k benefit fraud

A benefits cheat swindled over £46,000 of housing handouts — while boasting of her Spanish property business on Facebook.

Louise Jones, 50, was claiming UK disability benefits for nearly a decade despite living in Spain.

She was also claiming housing benefits for a property in Victoria Dock, Hull, alongside one in nearby Cleethorpes. Both were owned by her husband, Bruce McHardy — but the couple were at that time living near Alicante, in Spain.

In total, Jones illegally claimed a staggering £46,000 between 2007 and 2016.

But Exeter Crown Court heard how Jones caught herself out after she posted pictures of her wedding to Mr McHardy, a property developer, on social media.

With photos on her Facebook page of her engagement to Mr McHardy in 2015 and her wedding in July 2017, she also described herself as managing director of his Spanish property business, McHardy Spanish Properties.

Jones' Linkedin page also listed her as the managing director of another property venture, Blanca Sales and Rentals.

She admitted eight counts of benefit fraud and was jailed for six months, suspended for two years, by Judge Peter Johnson. He also set a timetable for the seizure of any remaining assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

The court heard that Jones was in a "controlling" relationship and that the couple's marriage was short-lived, with Mr McHardy leaving her as soon as her benefits cash dried up.

She had to move back to her family in Devon and face the music.

The judge told her: "You were a person of good character but that has been blown away. This was dishonesty of a high order which represents a deeply entrenched course of dishonesty on your part. You claimed housing benefit on two properties where you said you were living when you clearly were not. I accept you were perhaps in thrall to a controlling individual in a relationship which came to an end as a result of the cessation of these benefits."

Miss Sally Daulton, prosecuting, said Jones claimed a total of £46,867.14 in disability and housing benefits and employment support allowance.

She also claimed another £33,000 in severe disability allowance, but was entitled to claim that even when living in Spain.

Checks showed she had spent more than half of each year abroad and Facebook posts recorded her relationship with Mr McHardy.

She made full admissions, has never been in trouble before, and medical notes showed she did suffer from arthritis and depression and would have been entitled to claim benefits in Britain.

Source with pictures

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