Liverpool

Reality TV star Chelsey Harwood admits benefit fraud

Chelsey Harwood
Image caption Chelsey Harwood was sentenced to four months imprisonment, suspended for two years

A reality TV star who boasted about earning £120,000 a year and being given expensive gifts was fraudulently claiming benefits, a court has heard.

Chelsey Harwood, 29 and of St Helens, admitted three benefit fraud offences involving a total of £25,156 between April 2013 and January 2016.

She was living in a "fantasy" world, judge Andrew Menary QC said.

Handing her a suspended jail term at Liverpool Crown Court, he warned her about her "unhealthy" lifestyle.

He said her claims for employment support allowance and housing benefit had initially been genuine but became false when she began earning from her self-employed work and moved from Liverpool to St Helens and made a fresh claim for housing benefit.

The former This is Liverpool and Celebrity Botched Up Bodies star, who is transgender, had boasted to an online magazine that she had made £120,000 by talking to men on a webcam.

Judge Menary said: "In those posts you bragged about your level of earnings, making what seems to me clearly extravagant claims about the amounts you were able to earn from payments and gifts."

'Fantasy world'

He said whatever money she did have would have been spent "on her ordinary day-to-day living, rather an entirely hedonistic lifestyle as you were pretending".

He told Harwood that he recognised the fact that her "gender issues have complicated your life to this point and created challenges in the past and the unhealthy celebrity-type lifestyle you have sought to create, or courted online, means you have been living in a somewhat fantasy world.

"You have known for some time what you were doing was dishonest, there was nothing healthy about the lifestyle you chose or the other choices you made to project yourself online.

"You need to understand, sooner rather than later, that your future happiness and wellbeing lies in your own hands and requires you to adopt a much more responsible and constructive approach to life in future."

He sentenced her to four months' imprisonment, suspended for two years, and placed her under supervision for two years.

Ben Jones, prosecuting, told the court the prosecution could not say how much she was earning but she had "a measure of celebrity and was writing articles in Closer magazine.

"There may have been some element of bragging" in those articles, he added.

John Rowan, defending, said that she had received media payments of £14,389 over the period of the offences, which was "relatively modest".

He said his client was "remorseful and shameful for her actions".

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites