Wolverhampton gambling addict avoids jail after £68k benefit fraud
A mother of four who launched a near £68,000 benefits fraud to pay for her gambling has avoided jail ‘by a hair’s breadth’.
Vicky Law told the Department of Work and Pensions she was a single parent when she was living with her civil engineer partner who was in full-time work, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The 35-year-old claimed Income Support, Housing and Council Tax Benefit and Child Tax Credit to which she was not entitled, illegally pocketing £67,853 before the three-year con was discovered.
“This was deliberately fraudulent from the outset,” declared Miss Samantha Powis, prosecuting. “There was never a period during the duration of her offending that she and her partner were not living together.”
The partner declined to attend a voluntary interview with DWP officials investigating the fraud and claimed to know nothing about either her dishonesty or her expensive habit, the court was told.
Mr Rashad Mohammed, defending, explained: “She was always fond of gambling and, after she got bored at home, it became an addiction.
“She started to take money from her partner without his knowledge and when she went to the shop to buy groceries she purchased scratch cards instead.
“She then made fraudulent applications for benefit and used the money to fund her gambling addiction for several years. She won sometimes but has nothing to show for the money she took and gambled away.
“She is very ashamed and the gambling is still a problem but her partner has now taken full control of the family finances.
Law is due to see a counsellor at Penn Hospital in a bid to deal with her addiction, said Mr Mohammed who continued:
“She knew all along that things would catch up with her and one day she would be facing the consequences of her actions. She is suicidal, self harming and finding it difficult to cope.”
Her partner is now her registered carer, looking after both her and their children, while the family have money taken from their genuine benefits to cover the loss. It will take 20 years for the debt to be settled, the court heard.
Law, of Wellington Road, Bilston and of previous good character, pleaded guilty to illegally claiming benefits between 2012 and 2015. She was given a 13-month jail term suspended for two years with 100 hours’ unpaid work.
Judge Simon Ward said: “The tax payers of the West Midlands will think what you did was outrageous.
“The irony is that the state is now paying for your partner to care for you because you are now suffering from anxiety and depression as a result of the situation you put yourself in.
“There is a powerful argument for me to send you straight to prison as a deterrent to others but I have to consider your family as well and draw a balance which, by a hair’s breadth, falls in your favour.”