Benefit-fraud mother pocketed extra £23k

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A 48-year-old mother-of-two has been given a suspended prison sentence after she cheated the benefit system out of almost £23,000.

Sandra Nicholl, of Coronation Street, Elland, received overpayments of housing benefit and council tax benefit between 2006 and 2010 after she failed to reveal details about other bank accounts she held.

Prosecutor Clare Benson told Bradford Crown Court Nicholl had told the authorities about two NatWest accounts, but when she filled in benefit review forms in September 2008, June 2009 and March 2010 she did not disclose details of other accounts.

Miss Benson said inquiries into Nicholl’s financial affairs showed she had six undeclared accounts receiving large and regular credits. When Nicholl was interviewed in November last year she said she knew that any income could affect her benefit claim, but she said she had been selling items over the internet for others and receiving 10 per cent commission.

“She said she had not declared the income to her accountant because it was not her stock she was selling,” said Miss Benson.

Recorder Robin Mairs was told that Nicholl, who had no previous convictions, was overpaid £22,966 in benefits and she was now paying back the housing benefit at the rate of £7 a week.

Miss Benson said the defendant had repaid just under £2,000.

Recorder Mairs said he was satisfied that Nicholl knew full well that she should have declared the other accounts and she had cheated the state at a time when the public finances were stretched.

He said Nicholl had prevented the money from going to those who needed it and added: “This was mean, dishonest and despicable repeat offending carried out over a four-and-a-half year period.”

Nicholl admitted six benefit fraud charges and asked for a further 12 similar matters to be taken into consideration.

The judge said her age, previous good character and family circumstances meant he could suspended her 36-week prison sentence for 18 months.

Nicholl will also have to do 150 hours unpaid work for the community.