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20 Jan 2020

Parents jailed for long term benefit fraud

A shameless couple pocketed £108,754 of taxpayers' money to live a life of luxury by pretending they were landlord and tenant to steal benefit cash.

Melissa Ellis, 34 and Jonathan Lucas, 38, were handed the money over a nine-year period.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that they kept housing benefit and other kick-backs their weren't entitled to - and spent it on mega-money trips to America, Dubai and Portugal.

They even upgraded their Huyton home which has special security gates.

On the driveway was a convoy of vehicles including a Jaguar car, a Mercedes, a Range Rover and a Transit van with a trailer.

There were also four mountain bikes, one large scrambler bike and two smaller bikes in the garage at their home.

Suspicious fraud investigators for the Department for Work and Pensions eventually snared the couple after visiting the four bedroom pad.

Ellis and Lucas, who illegally claimed the benefits between 2008 and 2017, were living together as husband and wife, it was discovered.

Ellis claimed housing benefit as a tenant and then paid it to her partner, Lucas, a self-employed businessman, as her landlord and the property owner.

The couple were arrested at the scene.

Lucas admitted to officers there was also cash belonging to him in a safe in the loft.

They found £35,000 and more money in the kitchen, along with some Mexican currency. In total, they seized £55,931 and $437.59 in Mexican Pesos.

The couple were taken to St Anne Street police station for questioning.

Ellis was shown her applications for housing benefit and income support made from her previous address in Garston, and her current Huyton address, all made as a single parent. The 34-year-old admitted making false claims.

Lucas claimed to live at an address in Abergele, north Wales, but investigators found it to be frequently booked up as a holiday cottage with paying guests.

Ellis eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of making a dishonest representation to obtain benefit and three counts of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances. She was jailed for two years and three months.

Lucas pleaded guilty to two counts of encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence. He was handed 21 months behind bars.

Investigators will try and recoup some of the £108,000 in a Proceeds of Crime application.

Maqsood Khan, from Merseyside Crown Prosecution Service, said: “Jonathan Lucas and Melissa Ellis are a pair of serial fraudsters who were falsely claiming a variety of benefits while living a very nice lifestyle indeed. The most that Jonathan Lucas would admit to was that Melissa Ellis was his ‘on-off girlfriend’, yet they were clearly living together as man and wife, bringing up their three children and going on expensive foreign holidays together.

“Lucas denied living at the house in St Mary’s Road but was shown the tenancy agreements for both that property and the house in [Garston] and confirmed he’d completed them and then given them to Ellis knowing she would be using them for her housing benefit claim. He said he didn’t see what was wrong with him charging Ellis rent for living in the house, even though his children were living there too.

"Nailing these two cheats has taken a lot of work, but they eventually pleaded guilty and have now been sent to prison. The benefits system is there to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society. That clearly doesn’t include Jonathan Lucas and Melissa Ellis.”

Source with pictures

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