Smallthorne fraudster Tina Belfield's £45k benefit claim made on bogus son
FRAUDSTER Tina Belfield claimed she was the mother of a relative's child to pocket at least £45,000 in a 10-year benefits swindle – after her own baby died.
The 36-year-old, pictured, first submitted her benefit claim in 1999 when she was pregnant.
After her daughter was stillborn Belfield then substituted her dead child with a relative's son on her paperwork to continue to receive the benefit.
The cleaner went on to claim £45,061 over the period which dates back as far as Department of Work and Pension records stretch.
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But bungling DWP staff repeatedly failed to spot Belfield's deception – despite a disparity in the dates of birth between the two youngsters.
Now Belfield, of Community Drive, Smallthorne, has been jailed for six months at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court.
The court heard Belfield's claim was reviewed six times by the DWP.
Nicholas Tatlow, prosecuting, said: "In December 1999 the defendant made a proper claim on the basis that she was expecting a child.
"In March 2000 she failed to notify the department that her child had sadly been stillborn.
"Instead she claimed to be the mother of a boy that was a real child, but not her's. On March 24, 2000 the department received correspondence from the defendant to the effect that she had had a child.
"In April 2000 a review form was submitted in which she named the child, giving a date of birth of March 1999."
The court heard the DWP failed to notice the disparity in the dates of the children's birth.
Belfield, who has no previous convictions, pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstances.
When interviewed by the police in 2010, she gave no explanation why she had claimed the boy was her son.
Heather Drew, mitigating, said her client had been psychologically damaged by losing her daughter.
"She went through a very emotional and stressful experience," she said. "Although there is no diagnostic mental heath issue, a doctor said she would have been psychologically affected by this.
"Perhaps she felt she wanted to have a child and it was put down on the form, then it went on too long and she couldn't turn the clock back.
"It's something that she doesn't ever seem to have got over. She continues to visit the grave of her baby, and she also lost her partner in 2008."
The court heard if Belfield had submitted an honest claim as a single person, she could have legitimately received around £25,000 in benefits during the period of the fraud.
Jailing Belfield, Judge Mark Eades said: "You deliberately made a false claim in respect of this boy. You had no right to claim for him at all.
"You knew when you entered his name on the form that it was a false claim, and you kept the pretence up for a long time.
"I take the view that such blatant dishonesty must mean an immediate custodial sentence."