A mother-of-four who used the the identities of real women to make bogus claims for maternity allowance has been jailed for a year.
Juliett Nneka Eze, 36, claimed she was pressured into scam by her controlling partner, but a court heard that the multiple claims over a period of more than three years netted fraudsters in excess of £73,000.
Eze told investigators that a blank medical form, which was needed to verify the pregnancy claim, had been stolen by her then partner when they visited the Bradford Royal Infirmary during her first pregnancy and he had later used it to set up a template on their home computer.
Bradford Crown Court heard that on one occasion pregnant Eze had visited the Halifax Children’s Innovation Centre posing as one of the bogus claimants in order to get that pregnancy verified so a bogus application could be submitted.
Prosecutor Simon Clegg told the court that 17 fraudulent claims for maternity allowance were successfully submitted using application forms containing Eze’s handwriting and fingerprints.
Although Eze used the identities some relatives and people she knew there were also a dozen strangers whose details were ‘’hijacked’’ as part of the fraud.
Mr Clegg revealed that one of the stolen identities belonged to a a woman with brain damage, but that claim was rejected by the benefits agency because she received the highest level of disability living allowance.
‘’Of greatest concern to the authorities has been the identities used in the fraudulent claims are genuine identities,’’ said Mr Clegg.
‘’They are not fabricated details, but rather persons living in the Bradford area.’’
The court heard that professionally-planned fraud also involved the setting up of bank accounts using the stolen identities so that the benefits could be paid in and then withdrawn at a later date.
Mr Clegg said the stolen medical forms bore a hospital stamp and a mock-up stamp, which had been ‘’doctored’’ to resemble the official Bradford Teaching Hospital one, was found at Eze’s shop during the investigation.
Back in 2006 Eze, of High Croft, Ovenden, was jailed for eight months along with her partner for other fraud offences.
Eze pleaded guilty to the fraud charge which covered the period from January 2009 to October last year.
Barrister Clare Larton, for Eze, said she had been in an abusive relationship for 20 years and her partner was a violent and controlling man.
Miss Larton said her client was financially dependent on her partner and felt she had no alternative but to get involved in the fraud.
But Judge Peter Benson said Eze knew what the man was like and she should have gone to the authorities after he traced her to Yorkshire.
The judge said Eze had chosen to be involved in a professionally-planned and executed series of fraudulent applications which involved the accurate details of real people unbeknown to them.
Judge Benson said an immediate custodial sentence was inevitable, but he could reduce it to as low as possible because of the impact it would have on Eze’s two youngest children.