Penkhull benefit cheat mum Joanne Sales spared prison
MOTHER-OF-FOUR Joanne Sales was paid more than £13,000 in benefits she was not entitled to.
The 40-year-old claimed income support on the basis that she was a single parent with four children at home.
But she failed to tell the authorities when two of her children stopped living with her.
Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard Sales continued to falsely claim benefits from 2003 until 2011.
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Sarah Allen, prosecuting, said: "The claim was not fraudulent from the outset.
"It started in 1999 on the basis she was a lone parent with no other income or savings.
"She is the mother of four children. In 2003 and 2004 her two sons stopped living with her. But she continued to make claims to the benefit agency and failed to notify them of the change in her circumstances.
"In 2005 and 2006 she filled in forms saying that things had not changed."
The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) initially prosecuted Sales, of Harris Street, Penkhull, for falsely claiming £39,203.
But her defence team calculated that she would still have been entitled to some benefits during the period, and the amount was reduced to £13,203.
The court heard the two children who moved out would stay with their mother, sometimes for long periods, despite not living there permanently.
Sales pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances.
The court heard she has previous convictions for similar offences.
In 1993 she was given a conditional discharge after admitting making a false representation to obtain benefit.
Then in 2001 she was convicted of false accounting, and earlier this year she was given a community order for fraud by false representation after she spent money she collected from former friends for a Christmas savings scheme.
Judge Paul Glenn said it would be "pointless" to send Sales to prison because the sentence would have to be so short.
Instead he handed her a 12-month community order with a supervision requirement, 60 hours of unpaid work, and a requirement to attend Chepstow House, in Hanley, which helps women get their lives back on track.
Judge Glenn said: "If you had been convicted of benefit fraud involving £39,000 you would be going to prison.
"Your initial claims were honest, but they became dishonest. You knew what you were doing.
"Your own upbringing was difficult, you have had an unfortunate history of abusive relationships and I'm not surprised you have struggled to cope.
"You have had some benefit from the community order made in February, and I think there is more to be gained in your case by going down that route again.
"A prison sentence would just be for days and, quite frankly, pointless."