Child Support Agency worker jailed for £7k fraud on parents
A WORKER at the Child Support Agency has been jailed for diverting nearly £7,000 due to parents into her own bank account.
Clair Jones, aged 38, was led away from court in tears after she was imprisoned for 12 weeks.
Plymouth magistrates heard she was struggling to pay debts and had been threatened by loan sharks.
But presiding magistrate Wendy Casper told her: "Only custody is justified because these offences were committed while you were in a position of trust.
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"They were committed over a long period of time and with a fair degree of sophistication.
"They only stopped when you were caught."
She was jailed for 12 weeks but her solicitor Alan Harris said an appeal against sentence to Plymouth Crown Court would be launched.
Jones, of Union Street, Stonehouse, admitted three counts of fraud by abuse of position in January 2009, July 2009 and August 2011.
Owen Lawton, prosecuting for the Department for Work and Pensions, said she was an employee of the Child Support Agency.
He said she diverted payments due to claimants into her own account and then altered the records to 'cover her tracks'.
Mr Lawton said the fraud came to light when an absentee parent due to receive a refund of nearly £400 complained that he had not had the cash.
He added the payment was traced to a bank account in Jones' name and she was instantly suspended.
Mr Lawton said in total three transfers of agency cash were made to her, adding up to £6,847.60.
Mr Harris said she had intended to repay the money she had taken.
He added she had since borrowed cash, partly from her mother, to repay the entire sum.
Mr Harris said the single parent's child benefit had ceased and she had found it difficult to meet her household bills.
He added she also had a problem with her car.
Mr Harris said she borrowed from money lenders who made threats against her. He added she had gone to the Citizens Advice Bureau for help but the threats had got 'worse and worse'.
Mr Harris said: "She knew straight away she had lost her job and any prospect of being employed anywhere where she has responsibility."
An application for bail pending appeal was turned down by a district judge.