Flintshire benefits cheat mother jailed

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THE single mother of a disabled teenager was jailed yesterday after she admitted a £63,000 benefits scam.

Marianne Jane Williams, 40, had developed both a gambling and a cannabis addiction and failed to tell officials when a partner moved in, Mold Crown Court was told.

Williams, of Riverbank, Bagillt, had been claiming benefits as a single mum for about six years while she was living as husband and wife with Mark Francis.

Asked last year if information she had provided – that her only income was her benefits – was correct she said it was but an anonymous tip-off led officials of the
Department for Work and Pensions and Flintshire Council officials to launch a joint probe.

Surveillance showed Mr Francis was living at the address, said Ben Kelly, prosecuting. His car was parked there overnight and he left early in the morning to go to work.

Checks were carried out on the information given to an employer, a loan company and Sky television and they all had her home address as his.

Williams, whose relationship had since come to an end, falsely claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit to the tune of £63,112.

Interviewed last October, she denied they were living as man and wife. The payments continued until January.

Williams admitted two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances to both the DWP and the council.

Gareth Roberts, defending, said Williams was contrite and scared. She was now alone caring for her 19-year-old son who had Down’s Syndrome.

He was about to start a college course and for the first time in many years it would free up some time for her to get a job and get her life in order.

She was about £20,000 in debt and the stress of it all meant she had developed cannabis and gambling addictions.

She was struggling to cope and needed probation service help.

“My client finds herself head over heels in debt,” Mr Roberts said.

Judge Merfyn Hughes QC said he would cut the sentence as much as he could in view of her guilty plea and her responsibility for her son but he could reduce it no further than 20 weeks imprisonment.

Her claim for benefits became unlawful in 2004 and she continued “to effectively steal from the taxpayer”, he said.

The judge said the £63,000 overpayment was large by any standards.

“It is very sad to see you here, a woman with no relevant previous convictions,” he told Williams, who wept in the dock.

But the fraud had been deliberate. “The reason why these offences are so serious is they are easily committed and difficult and expensive to detect.”

The false claims, said the judge, had not only been to keep her family together but to fund a gambling addiction and cannabis habit.

See full story in the Leader

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