West Bromwich cheat claimed £42k despite £50k savings

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A mother of seven claimed £42,500 in benefits despite having more than £50,000 in bank and building society accounts, a court was told.

Gwendolyn Thomas claimed income support and housing and council tax benefits between May 2007 and March 2011, without revealing she had a substantial amount of savings.

The 59-year-old, from Beeches Road, West Bromwich, admitted three charges involving benefit fraud at Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday.

Mr Trevor Meegan, prosecuting, said Thomas illegally obtained £42,586 at a time when, at one stage, she had more than £50,000 in her seven savings accounts.

Judge Michael Challinor said he was satisfied the grandmother of nine had not been motivated by greed but by a desire to put money away for the future of her disabled son. "I have read a number of references and it is clear there is a lot of good in you," he said. "It is perfectly plain you have done all you can to repay a substantial amount of the money.

"I am satisfied the taxpayer will get back all the money you obtained."

Mr Riaz Mohammed, defending, said Thomas did not lead a lavish lifestyle and had been saving the benefits she picked up for her disabled son. "She went to the authorities to admit what she had done," he said.

"She wanted to put money on one side for her son for the time when she would no longer be around to provide him with care."

Thomas has already paid £25,000 back to the Department of Work and Pensions. She was given a six-month jail term suspended for 18 months and placed on supervision for a year. She is now facing a further hearing under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Figures released by the Department for Work & Pensions show that benefits cheats cost the taxpayer millions of pounds every year. Last year, there were more than 2,000 criminal cases prosecuted in central England, which includes the West Midlands.

Financial experts working for the department are using Proceeds of Crime Act powers to recoup money stolen by cheats, forcing them to repay the money quickly – or face jail.

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