Chell Heath mum in court after lying to claim benefits
A MOTHER who was overpaid more than £15,000 benefits has been handed a community order.
Gwendoline Leonard, aged 58, legitimately claimed income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit on the basis she was a lone parent on a low income, North Staffordshire magistrates heard yesterday.
But Trevor Vernon, prosecuting for Stoke-on-Trent City Council, said the claim 'went wrong' when her husband moved into her home in Springbank Road, Chell Heath.
"She failed to declare that change in circumstances to the Department for Works and Pensions (DWP) and Stoke-on-Trent City Council," said Mr Vernon.
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"She also made false statements on application renewal forms and indicated no-one else was living with her."
The court heard an investigation was launched after the authorities received information that her husband had moved in with the defendant.
Mr Vernon said: "The investigation showed his wages were paid into her bank account. On loan agreements he gave his address as Springbank Road. They were signed at the property in her presence.
"His employers had his address as Springbank Road and she had signed some forms confirming she was his next of kin."
Leonard was interviewed twice under caution and denied her husband was living with her.
She exercised her right to an appeal and the appeals tribunal found partially in her favour – that they were not living together as man and wife but he was living as a non-dependent in full-time employment.
The tribunal found Leonard was overpaid a total of £15,173.10.
She denied two charges of failing to notify a change of circumstances, one charge of making a false statement and two charges of producing a false document. But she was convicted of the charges after a trial last week.
The court heard Leonard, who has no previous convictions, has repaid the income support and is repaying the council tax benefit and housing benefit. At the end of the trial £12,724.61 was outstanding.
Alan Dawson, mitigating, said the claim was legitimate at the start.
He added: "She is making payments towards the overpayment. The income support has been settled in full.
"The appeal tribunal found partially in her favour – that he was living there but not as a couple."
Magistrates sentenced Leonard to a 12 month community order with 12 months supervision to focus on finances and thinking skills deficits as well as six sessions of benefit fraud intervention.
She was also ordered to pay £250 costs.