Benefit cheat swindled taxpayers out of £56,000
A MOTHER who swindled nearly £56,000 over a six-year period by claiming her husband did not live with her has avoided an immediate jail sentence.
Julie Harrison, aged 47, wept in court as she was handed an 18-month sentence that will be suspended for two years.
Yesterday Bolton Crown Court heard that Harrison, of Pimlott Road, Hall i’th’ Wood, had first applied for the benefits in February, 2006, by claiming she was a single mother with two children.
But her deception was discovered after she was transferred on to the Employment and Support Allowance in January, 2011.
Investigators found Harrison had a non-dependent son living at home and asked her to attend an interview on January 25, 2012.
She claimed her husband, Shaun, had returned two weeks earlier but, before that, they had been estranged for six years.
Investigators found evidence, including bank statements, television accounts, utility payments and checks with Mr Harrison’s employers, that suggested he had been living with her for some time, the court heard.
Alexander Langhorn, defending, said Harrison was “deeply ashamed of what she had done” and that it was an “act of desperation”.
He added: “This was nothing clever — it was a circumstance where she made the wrong decision.”
Sentencing, Recorder Fiona Ashworth said Harrison had maintained a dishonest lifestyle, claiming benefits she was not entitled to.
Delivering the suspended sentence, she added: “If you commit any other offence you will be brought back to court and will serve the sentence in full, immediately — I am giving you a chance to keep your liberty.”
Harrison had pleaded guilty at Bolton Magistrates Court to four counts of failing to notify a change in circumstances affecting entitlement to housing and council tax benefits, income support, employment support and job seekers allowance.
Harrison was also ordered to carry out 180 hours of community service and must obey a three-month curfew.
Following the sentence, a Bolton Council spokesman said: “We are extremely pleased with the outcome of this case, which was a result of a joint operation between Bolton Council and the Department for Work and Pensions.
“Bolton Council is committed to protecting public funds and bringing benefit cheats to justice.”