England

Mother from Norfolk jailed for £60,000 benefits fraud

A 35-year-old mother from Norfolk has been jailed for nine months for defrauding the state of about £60,000 in benefits.

Emma Wright kept a bank account secret for six years while claiming income support and council tax benefit, Luton Crown Court heard.

Wright was living in Hurst Way, Luton, at the time of the fraud but has since moved to Norfolk, the court was told.

She pleaded guilty to two fraud charges amounting to a total of £59,562.

Quinton Newcombe, prosecuting, said: "She withheld the existence of the bank account for about six years in order to allow her to claim benefits to which she was not entitled."

He said the deception began in about August 2002 and involved a loss to Luton Borough Council of £20,685 and to the Department of Work and Pensions of £38,876.

The secret account came to light in 2008.

'Watching the pennies'

Mr Newcombe said money was being paid into the account by the father of one of her children, who was not living with her at the time.

Chloe Fordham, defending, said: "She was not living anything close to a lavish lifestyle but was watching the pennies while looking after her children.

"If she goes to prison her partner will have to give up work to look after the children, aged between 16 and two."

But Judge Peter de Mille told Wright: "You received benefits from two sources over a long period and you did that completely dishonestly.

"I accept that immediate imprisonment will have an impact on your partner and your children, that is inevitable.

"But nonetheless I cannot regard this case as exceptional and suspend the sentence."

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