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Woman jailed for falsely claiming more than £1 million in benefits

Crime | Published:

Christina Pomfrey said she was totally blind and wheelchair-bound, but surveillance by investigators showed her driving and going for a walk unaided.

Christina Pomfrey

A grandmother “grossly exaggerated” her disabilities to falsely claim more than £1 million in benefits over 15 years, a court has heard.

Christina Pomfrey, 65, lied she was totally blind and wheelchair-bound, but surveillance by investigators showed her driving, going for a walk unaided while reading a newspaper and collecting her grandchildren from school.

When confronted with the evidence, she said she was relieved to be finally caught and claimed she had given the money away to charity and those in need.

However, she also admitted she had spent cash on numerous holidays, cosmetic treatment and clothes.

On Monday, Pomfrey, from Runcorn, Cheshire, was jailed for three years and eight months after she pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to multiple counts of fraud, false accounting and making or supplying articles for use in frauds.

Sentencing at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, Judge Sophie McKone told her: “You grossly exaggerated your disabilities in pretending you were completely blind and that your multiple sclerosis was of such severity that you required significant and costly care.

“This was money to which you were not entitled. Over 15 years, you stole £1 million from your fellow citizens. Money which would have gone to people who justly deserved it, money that could have gone to schools and hospitals.

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“This was a determined benefit fraud on a substantial scale. You claimed you spent money on others – whether or not that is true, you spent some money on holidays, beauty treatment, clothes, restaurant and hotels.”

The court heard that despite Pomfrey’s admission of guilt and remorse to investigators in December 2017, she continued her deceit while on bail.

Judge McKone said: “You made further dishonest benefit claims, lying again about your personal circumstances and your health which resulted in more money being paid out. Your behaviour is – frankly – staggeringly dishonest.”

The judge noted Pomfrey, of The Glen, Palacefields, had a traumatic childhood which continued into her adult years as she suffered abuse “at the hands of people who should have cared for you”.

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Christina Pomfrey
Christina Pomfrey admitted she had spent cash on numerous holidays, cosmetic treatment and clothes (CPS/PA)

As a result, the defendant had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and also suffers from disassociative disorder, where she appears to adopt different personas to cope with past trauma.

Her daughter, Aimee Brown, 34, from Runcorn, received an 18-month jail term, suspended for two years, after she laundered £80,000 of Pomfrey’s cash into her bank account and kept more than £70,000 for herself.

She was “hoodwinked” by her mother and had no knowledge of the extent of her lies, but had entered a guilty plea to money laundering because she did not act on her suspicions, the court heard.

The court was also told the full amount of £1,010,090 fraudulently claimed in various benefits had been spent by Pomfrey.

Senior crown prosecutor George Ward, of CPS Mersey Cheshire, said: “Christina Pomfrey is a shameless, serial fraudster who has systematically defrauded a system that is meant to help the most vulnerable in our society.

“She had no thought for the feelings of the people whose identities she used to make her false claims and, as a result, in some cases prevented them from making genuine claims for tax credits to supplement their low pay.”

Will Quince, Minister for Welfare Delivery, said: “We have zero tolerance of anyone fraudulently claiming benefits and this sentence sends a clear message to anyone attempting to cheat the system. When we suspect fraudulent activity we take swift action to investigate and support our partners and prosecutors to bring them to justice.”

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