A PENSIONER who illegally claimed £28,000 in benefits despite inheriting over £100,000 when he father died has been jailed.
Wheelchair-bound Maureen Whelan, 65, was given a four-month sentence yesterday after pleading guilty to three offences of benefit fraud.
Leeds Crown Court heard Whelan had only been able to repay £12,500 of the amount she dishonestly obtained as she had given away much of her inheritance to family members.
The court heard Whelan initially made legitimate claims for income support, housing and council tax benefit from 1990.
In 2008 she received £100,000 from her father’s estate but failed to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP).
She then received a further £20,000 later the same year but failed to notify authorities. Whelan then claimed pension credits upon reaching the age of 60 in 2009 and again failed to declare she had inherited a six-figure sum.
Whelan, of Athlone Grove, Armley, pleaded guilty to failing to notify the DWP of a change in circumstance, failing to notify Leeds City Council of a change in circumstances and making a false statement to the DWP.
At an earlier hearing, Whelan’s lawyer Ian Cook told the court his client had distributed much of her inheritance to members of her family, including children and grandchildren.
Judge Tom Bayliss, QC, adjourned the case to see if Whelan was able to recover cash from her relatives so it could be returned to the public purse.
Mr Cook said yesterday that Whelan had paid back £12,500 but now only had £2,500 left in her bank account.
The lawyer said Whelan had been unable to recover any money from family members.
Mr Cook said £13,000 had been spent clearing a relative’s debt and she had also spent £7,000 on family funeral bills.
Mr Cook added: “She is not a lady who has been living a lavish lifestyle,
The court heard Whelan was now in poor health and relied upon the use of a wheelchair.
Judge Bayliss said Whelan’s claim for pension credits was serious because fraudulent from the outset
He added: “This was a deliberate fraud carried out over a period of some years. I take the view that this is so serious that it has to be an immediate sentence of imprisonment.”