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14 Jun 2018

Woman on benefits didn't declare inheritance

A woman took her family on a £15,000 Disneyland holiday while falsely claiming benefits after failing to mention to the authorities she had inherited more than £170,000.

Christine Angell, 61, fraudulently claimed nearly £50,000 in housing benefit and employment and support allowance, telling investigators she did not think she was obliged to declare "gifts".

Speaking at Cardiff Crown Court , her counsel Aled Watkins said she "buried her head in the sand".

The court heard she wrongly claimed a total of £47,315.97 over a five-and-a-half-year period.

Jeffrey Jones, prosecuting, said the DWP received information that she had "hidden capital" while claiming benefits.

Prosecutors said the benefits were paid on the basis that she would inform the authorities of any changes in her circumstances affecting her entitlement to claim but she made repeated false declarations.

The court heard there was an investigation and the DWP found she was receiving large sums of money, which she did not bring to their attention.

Mr Jones said Angell inherited significant amounts from her brother and partner. Investigators found she had five bank accounts with NatWest and received nearly £40,000 on April 13, 2012, followed by another £20,000, then £15,000 a month later.

In December the following year £50,000 was deposited in her account followed by another £47,000. Prosecutors said she was also receiving regular monthly payments of about £1,000, and sometimes as much as £3,750, from her brother's assets in Switzerland.

The court heard she took her family on holiday to Disneyland, costing £15,000, and there was a second holiday to Orlando.

Angell was interviewed on June 16 last year and denied doing anything wrong. The court heard her brother died in 2008 and her partner died in 2011.

She accepted she had inherited from them but believed she did not have to disclose the amounts as they were "gifts".

Mr Jones said the money was "depleted" and there was no point in the DWP pursuing confiscation proceedings to try and get it back. He made an application for £340 towards prosecution costs.

Prosecutors said they could not argue that she led a "lavish lifestyle" but drew the court's attention to the holidays.

Angell admitted three counts of benefit fraud. Mr Watkins said she had no previous convictions and pleaded guilty at the first opportunity.

He said she took her family on holiday because her partner stated he wanted his money to be spent on the family. Mr Watkins added: "She felt obliged and complied with his wish."

The court heard she was grieving at the time of the offending and was prescribed medication for depression.

Angell's counsel said she has multiple health problems and brought a bag of medication to court as she has to take 12 different tablets a day, including morphine. Mr Watkins added: "Coming to court today has been a very difficult process for her."

He said the case had been "hanging over her head" since June last year and she was told the money would be deducted from her benefits.

Judge Michael Fitton QC asked whether issues surrounding her health had been raised with the Prison Service.

He said he was considering an immediate custodial sentence of around 10 months meaning she would spend five months behind bars.

The judge adjourned the case for further inquiries to be made into the likely short-term and long-term impacts on her health of immediate custody and whether the prison would be able to provide necessary treatment.

She was granted bail until the next hearing on July 4 and warned that bail was no indication as to sentence.

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