Benefits cheat cleaner avoids prison sentence
A CLEANER who inherited more than £40,000 but lied to the council so she could continue claiming benefits narrowly avoided a prison sentence.
Kathleen Groves, 54, received £41,000 from her father in 2008 but continued to claim housing benefit and council tax.
When Bristol City Council investigated she made false statements saying she had no savings.
Groves, of Mendip Hill, Windmill Hill, admitted at Bristol Magistrates' Court failing to notify the council she had received the inheritance.
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Groves admitted twice telling the council she had no savings when she in fact had between £38,000 and £39,000 in the bank.
And she pleaded guilty to telling the Department of Work and Pensions she had just £10 savings when she had £36,000 so she could obtain Job Seeker's Allowance.
The court heard that in total Groves had dishonestly obtained £14,502 – £7,533 of housing benefit, £4,664 of Job Seeker's Allowance and £2,305 of council tax – between April 2008 and November 2011.
Sentencing Groves yesterday, presiding magistrate Peter Crossman said: "This is a very serious matter. You would have received 15 weeks imprisonment but as you pleaded guilty we have reduced this to 11 weeks, and it will be suspended for 12 months. This involves a large amount of money over a significant period of time. It makes it worse that you were not in need – you effectively stole money from those people who needed it. You will repay what you took and will also complete 100 hours of unpaid work."
Lynne Harvey, prosecuting on behalf of the city council, said the council tax had been repaid in full, that £4,500 was still owed in JSA and £2,500 of housing benefit remained outstanding.
Ruth Tiley, defending, said half of the inheritance had gone to her son who lived with her but he had helped pay the outstanding debt.
She said Groves had a financial arrangement with the council and the DWP to pay back what she owed.
"She is deeply ashamed to be in this situation but does take full responsibility for her actions."
Magistrates also ordered Groves to pay £1,114 in court costs.