Horse owner is jailed for £100k benefit fraud

A mother of two who owns 20 horses and pocketed £100,000 in state benefits after lying about living alone has been locked up for 12 months by a judge.

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At the amount she is currently repaying, it will take Joanne Brindley three decades to clear the debt. Brindley, from Burntwood, was claiming income support, housing benefit and council tax benefit as a lone parent. Stafford Crown Court heard she had failed to tell the Department for Work and Pensions that her partner, who is the father of her children, had moved in to live with them.

It emerged in court that Brindley owns 20 horses. The con went on for more than eight years from April 2003 to February 2012.

Brindley, aged 39, of Birch Avenue, was jailed for 12 months after admitting two charges of failing to notify the benefits agency of the change in her circumstances.

Recorder Mr Derek Desmond told her: “For a period of some eight years you obtained a little over £100,000 from the state.

“Inquiries have revealed you were not entitled to any of it.

“People who are tempted to commit benefit fraud need deterring – you need to be punished and deterred.” Mr Gary Cook, prosecuting, said Brindley’s initial claim in January 1999 was legitimate.

He said: “Information came to light she had a partner living with her. They had use of motor vehicles and she kept 20 horses.

“That was investigated and she was interviewed on February 9, 2012. She was to confirm she was aware the benefits would cease if her partner moved in. She claimed her partner had lived with her since October 2011 and she accepted she had failed to report that.”

However, Brindley had received payments of £54,000 in income support between April 2003 and September 2010 when she had been living with her partner. There were payments of £4,195 job seekers’ allowance between October 2010 and February 2012.

In addition, between September 2003 and February 2012 Lichfield Council had paid her £34,836 in housing benefit and £6,393 in council tax relief.

Mr Cook said the amount of benefits fraudulently claimed was £100,065.

She has been repaying the debt at £290 a month, which will take nearly 30 years to clear.

Mr Paul Lamb, defending, said there had been difficulties in her relationship.