Plymouth single mother of four jailed for £44k benefit fraud
A SINGLE mother who claimed more than £44,000 in benefits but failed to tell the authorities she was living with a man has been sent to prison.
Prosecutor Sean Brunton, for the Department of Work and Pensions, told Plymouth Crown Court that mother-of-four Carol Irving, pictured right, had lived at two different addresses between April 1998 and July 2009.
She had received income support, more recently JobSeekers' allowance, and for six years housing and council tax benefits from Plymouth City Council.
But she failed to tell the authorities that over the last five years she had been living intermittently with a working man, Neil Hall.
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The result was that she was overpaid £44,527. She had begun repaying the money at £15 a week, and now owed £40,000.
Irving, aged 39 and of Wyndham Square, Stonehouse, was given a conditional discharge in 2001 for making a false statement.
She admitted two charges of failing to disclose a change of circumstances which would affect her benefit, two offences of fraud by failing to disclose information and one of making a false statement to obtain benefit.
Jason Beal, for Irving, said Mr Hall had "contributed very scantily to the household finances" and Irving had not lived an extravagant lifestyle.
In interview, she had claimed that had she declared her change of circumstances, she would not have been able to afford to feed her children.
Mr Beal said Irving had left school at 16 with no qualifications and had never worked, but recently she had taken a job as a cleaner, and was receiving working families tax credit.
She had four children aged 16-21 and the youngest would feel her absence most keenly, he said.
Recorder Stephen Parish told Irving: "I accept that you didn't set out to act fraudulently, but the plain fact is that for five years you have consistently defrauded the public purse.
"This is not a victimless crime; you have been stealing from hard-working families who pay their taxes.
He jailed her for six months.