A WOMAN who told authorities she was too ill to do the vacuuming or household chores ran her own cleaning business while claiming £31,000 in disability benefits.
Carol Matthews carried out the deception for 14 years by claiming she was unable to walk without the aid of a stick.
Matthews, 68, was handed a suspended sentence yesterday over the scam, which ran from 1998 and she was finally caught in 2012.
Matthews, of Whitebridge Avenue, Halton Moor, Leeds, pleaded guilty to three offences of benefit fraud.
Sentencing Matthews at Leeds Crown Court, judge Christopher Batty said: “Benefits are there for those who do not have the capacity or the wherewithal to work.
“In respect of your intelligence and application, you are lucky enough to have your own business.
“Yet you still thought it was right for the state to pay for you.”
Nicoletta Alistari, prosecuting, said Matthews initially made legitimate claims for disability living allowance in 1996 as she was unable to walk due to severe arthritis.
From August 1998 she declared to authorities that she was unable to work despite running her own business, called C & C Clean.
Matthews made similar declarations in 2006 and 2008 in order to continue to claim benefits despite running the business. She also claimed she was unable to do chores around her home and could not use a vacuum cleaner. Matthews was arrested in 2012 and some of her clients made statements to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) that they had seen her doing work without difficulty.
She was interviewed about the offences and initially denied the offences. She claimed that she had only dealt with paperwork from the armchair of her home.
Matthews was given a 24 week prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, and ordered her to take part in a 15-day activity programme designed to address her offending behaviour.
Judge Batty said Matthew could have expected to go to prison had she not been in poor health.
He said: “It is right to say that you are not a well woman, nor have you been for a number of years now.
“In 1996 your health was so bad that you were entitled to benefit payments - but there came a time when you weren’t, and it was a significant period of time. “You told the DWP that you were still in a position where you were virtually unable to work, such was your ill health.
“Yet all the while you were running your own cleaning business and indeed you were able to clean for yourself.”