Lancashire

'Corrupt' civil servant jailed for universal credit fraud

Lauren Wainwright
Image caption Lauren Wainwright (left) was told she was guilty of a "persistent abuse of her position"

A civil servant who paid herself more than £40,000 in universal credit has been jailed for a year.

Lauren Wainwright, 32, used claimants' national insurance numbers to make fraudulent payments into her own bank accounts, Preston Crown Court heard.

Her scam began four months after she started her £18,000-a-year job at the Department for Work and Pensions.

Wainwright, from Thornton Cleveleys in Lancashire, was described by the judge as "thoroughly dishonest and corrupt".

Sentencing the mother of one, Judge Graham Knowles QC called her crimes a "serious and persistent abuse of her position".

'It was easy'

Wainwright, who pleaded guilty to fraud, set up new bank accounts to spread the fraudulent payments, the court heard.

The caseworker, of Alder Lane, was caught out when a suspicious payment in July 2017 sparked an internal investigation, revealing she had made 54 separate payments totalling £41,466.50 using the national insurance numbers of 12 universal credit claimants.

After her arrest at work, she told police: "All the other trainees laughed about how easy it was, and I was the idiot that tried it."

In mitigation, her lawyer Daniel Prowse claimed his client had only used the money to pay the bills and debts caused by her husband's gambling addiction.

A DWP spokesperson said: "We have zero-tolerance towards fraud.

"Any suspected cases are investigated by specialist staff who will refer all evidence immediately to the police."

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